Friday 15 July 2011

NUJ revives call for journalists' conscience clause

The NUJ has revived its call for a "conscience clause" which would protect journalists from the sack if they refuse to do unethical journalism in breach of the union's Code of Conduct.

NUJ genereal secretary Michelle Stanistreet (pictured) made the call at an NUJ meeting in London last night held to discuss the implications of the News of the World phone-hacking scandal.

She said the union needed to continue to fight for a conscience clause as well as trade union recognition at News International.

The idea of a conscience clause is to protect journalists who feel under pressure to slant and twist stories and has long been favoured by the NUJ.

The issue of a conscience clause came to the fore in the 2004 row between the NUJ chapel and management at Express Newspapers in January, when journalists claimed they were being pressured to write anti-gypsy articles.

The chapel wrote to the Press Complaints Commission "reminding it of the need to protect journalists who are unwilling to write racist articles which are contrary to the NUJ's code of conduct".

A plea for a conscience clause to be inserted in the revised Editors' Code of Practice, which undepins the work of the PCC, was rejected.

Former NUJ deputy general secretary Jake Ecclestone said, at last night's meeting, that the union's Code of Conduct had failed because it was voluntary. He argued it should be made statutory and have the backing of the law.

John McDonnell MP, secretary of the NUJ's Parliamentary Group, told the meeting the NUJ had been "wise before the event" about what had happened at News International.

Of the way Murdoch had de-recognised the unions, he said: "The NUJ was cleared out and we lost the ability to stick up for journalists. We couldn't help journalists to stand up to the bullying and for the Code of Conduct."

He said the way unions had been undermined by Murdoch should be looked at by the inquiries examining the phone-hacking scandal.

Pic: Jon Slattery

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