Wednesday 20 July 2011

NUJ welcomes Leveson inquiry into media ethics and calls for tough penalties for code breakers

The NUJ has welcomed the terms of Lord Justice Leveson's inquiry into media behaviour and called for tough penalties for organisations that break the union's code of conduct.

The union says it offers the opportunity to create a serious regulatory body across the media which would work to uphold ethical standards and guarantee protection for journalists determined to abide by the NUJ code of conduct.

The self-regulatory body should provide for serious penalties for media organisations which break the code, said NUJ general secretary Michelle Stanistreet (top), as well as offering a reliable mechanism to deal with complaints from the public.

“Central to the development of an ethical environment for modern journalism must be a guarantee that journalists who uphold professional standards will be protected against management pressure to chase circulation by behaving unethically,” she said.

“No journalist should be threatened with the sack for standing up for quality journalism. The Murdoch scandal has created circumstances in which the media, journalists, and society as a whole can now move forward and design a new model of self-regulation which serves the interests of the public and the media industry in an honourable way.

“The Leveson inquiry must also address the issue of media ownership across the entire newspaper industry. The NUJ has drawn attention to the damage being done by media giants who have swallowed up and asset-stripped so many of our local and regional newspapers. The damage done to the quality of local journalism, as jobs are axed and content compromised, is a threat to democracy as well as a disservice to loyal local readers."

The remit of the Leveson inquiry will include broadcasting and social media. Two of the six people working with Lord Justice Levenson are journalists, the former political editor of Channel 4 News, Elinor Goodman, and the former political editor of the Daily Telegraph, George Jones.

The others are the former Ofcom director David Currie, Liberty director Shami Chakrabarti, Sir David Bell, the former chairman of the Financial Times, and Sir Paul Scott-Lee, a former police chief.

The NUJ has already revived its call for a "conscience clause" which would protect journalists from the sack if they refused to do unethical journalism in breach of the code of conduct.

Pic Jon Slattery

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