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NUJ general secretary calls on coroner to allow blogger into court

The National Union of Journalists (NUJ) has called upon the Isle of Wight coroner to allow a banned blogger into his court.

As we reported yesterday, Simon Perry of the VentnorBlog – a site that has been publishing local news for over four years – was refused entry, both as a journalist or a member of the public, to the Isle of Wight coroner’s court on Tuesday (23 February).  Perry has been a member of the NUJ for over nine years.

While parts of a small number of inquests may be held in private for reasons of national security, in this instance the hearing was public – and the local newspaper journalist was allowed to stay.

NUJ general secretary Jeremy Dear has written to the Isle of Wight coroner’s office expressing “grave concern” at the decision to ban Simon Perry, Journalism.co.uk has learned.

“The principle of open justice is vital to any democracy,” said Jeremy Dear. “Any journalist will tell you that the right of the public to know what happens in a coroner’s court is fundamental to a free society.

“I’m glad that Simon Perry regards this serious incident as a matter for his union, the NUJ. We will certainly pursue the issue vigorously.”

Over nine years of NUJ membership “would surely point to me not being fly by night,” Perry told Journalism.co.uk yesterday.

When Journalism.co.uk contacted the coroner’s court yesterday, the official did not wish to comment, but confirmed that the Coroner had made a statement once VentnorBlog had left the room.

The Ministry of Justice guide to coroner and inquests says (available via this link):

All inquests must be held in public in accordance with the principle of open justice, and so members of the public and journalists have the right to, and indeed may, attend (although parts of a very small number of inquests may be held in private for national security reasons). Whether journalists attend a particular inquest – and whether they report on it – is a matter for them. If any such report is fair and accurate it cannot be used to sue for defamation.

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NUJ membership cost rises

For the first time in two years, subscriptions for the National Union of Journalists (NUJ) have gone up.

Journalists’ subscriptions to the NUJ are to rise from 1 March, by between 8p and 15p a week – or between £4.16 and £7.80 per year.

The new grades (described at this link):

Grade 1: £150 now 154.16 a year. Grade 2:  £189 now 195.24 a year. Grade 3: £260 now 267.80 a year.

The changes were decided at the NUJ’s annual conference at the end of last year and come into effect on 1 March.

“Nobody likes an increase in subscriptions, but this small increase is unavoidable if we are to keep the union financially healthy,” said general secretary Jeremy Dear.

NUJ subscriptions still represent “tremendous value” for money, Dear claimed. “Last year the union secured more than £3m for staff and freelance members who were unfairly treated at work, saved jobs, and secured improved redundancy terms. And it remains true that in unionised workplaces workers earn 12.5 per cent more than in non-unionised workplaces.”

The NUJ is also currently promoting its ‘union recognition’ campaign, encouraging more workplaces to work with the union.

Full statement at this link…

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NUJ Release: NUJ condemns more job cuts at Trinity Mirror regionals

August 25th, 2009 | 1 Comment | Posted by in Job losses, Jobs, Media releases

Further to Trinity Mirror’s announcement that the Birmingham Post could become a weekly and the Birmingham Mail could be produced overnight, the National Union of Journalists has issued a statement condemning more job cuts at the Midlands titles.

Jeremy Dear, NUJ general secretary, said:

“Trinity Mirror managers have been shown to be irresponsible with regard to the truth and their attitude to their newspapers and the communities they serve.

“The union will fight to defend the jobs of journalists and the future of the Post.”

Full release at this link…

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IFJ calls on Afghanistan government to protect journalists

The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) has asked the government of Afghanistan ‘to set model standards for democracy if it wants upcoming elections in the country to be fair’, the organisation states in a release.

IFJ general secretary Aidan White spoke at  the Afghan Independent Journalists’ Association national assembly in Kabul at the weekend. He said:

“The political community and the government in particular must demonstrate a commitment to democracy by setting model standards when it comes to treatment of media. We need less pressure, more useful information and a wider recognition that pluralism bolstered by a free media system is key to helping citizens exercise their right to vote at election time.”

Full release at this link…

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IFJ: 39 journalists and media workers forced to leave Iranian news agency

The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) this week issued a statement voicing ‘deep concern over continuing harassment of media in Iran amid signs of growing opposition from independent journalists to censorship and manipulation in the country’s mainstream media.’

The organisation reports that, according to its affiliate, the Association of Iranian Journalists (AoIJ),  the ‘conservative’ Iranian news agency, Fars News, has sacked or forced resignations of 39 journalists and media workers: ‘a number of them in recent weeks following clashes with management over the agency’s editorial line.’

“There is evidence of strong pressure on independent journalism from outside and inside the newsroom. Even some media owners inside the profession are bullying their journalists who refuse to toe the official line. Journalists are arrested, sacked or forced to resign for standing up for ethical journalism,” said Aidan White, IFJ general secretary, in the IFJ statement.

Full statement at this link…

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Parliamentary committee calls for police training in role of protest journalists

March 23rd, 2009 | 1 Comment | Posted by in Press freedom and ethics

The UK parliament’s Human Rights Joint Committee has published the following advisory, as part of today’s release of its March 3 session’s minutes:

“Effective training of front line police officers on the role of journalists in protests is vital. Police forces should consider how to ensure their officers follow the media guidelines which have been agreed between ACPO [Association of Chief Police Officers] and the NUJ [National Union of Journalists], and take steps to deal with officers who do not follow them.”

The committee came out in support of journalists covering protests, stating that they are entitled to carry out ‘their lawful business’ and report on how demos are handled by the police free from state intervention, unless this is deemed ‘necessary and proportionate’.

In his evidence to the committee, NUJ general secretary Jeremy Dear, said guidelines agreed by the union and ACPO were useless, because officers dealing with journalists and protests are not aware of them.

Vernon Coaker MP added that the NUJ has been invited to attend demonstrations with the police to suggest possible changes to procedure.

Evidence was given to the committee last year as part of its inquiry into”

  • the proportionality of legislative measures to restrict protest or peaceful assembly;
  • existing powers available to the police and their use in practice; and
  • reconciling competing interests of public order and protest
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NUJ Release: Johnston Press strikers go south

“Strikers from Yorkshire demonstrated at a London PR firm today as their employers – Johnston Press – announced more big profits,” a release from the National Union of Journalists said.

“The Yorkshire Post and Yorkshire Evening Post journalists were joined by NUJ general secretary Jeremy Dear as they leafleted JP chiefs and city workers about their fight against job cuts,” the report continues.

Full release at this link…

Also, a photograph of the protest over at Jon Slattery’s blog.

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NUJ jobs crisis summit round-up – ‘Murdoch and Dacre have brought us into disrepute’

January 26th, 2009 | 2 Comments | Posted by in Job losses

Saturday saw around 150 gathered for the National Union of Journalists’ (NUJ) job crisis summit, part of a union-wide campaign against job cuts and pay freezes in the industry.

Speaking at the summit, Flat Earth News author and journalist Nick Davies called upon journalists to be ‘whistleblowers on our own newsrooms':

“We need to tell the public the impact of the job cuts on newsgathering,” he said in a report on the NUJ website.

“The public must know that the corporations have taken over the newsrooms and ransacked them for profit and that is why readers have lost trust in us.

“We need to improve the status of journalists. We are not trusted; we are not liked, because we are misperceived. The best known people in journalism are people like Rupert Murdoch and Paul Dacre, who have brought us into disrepute.”

Exposing flaws in managements’ running of newsrooms and putting state aid into the hands of journalists and not corporations would help provide a practical solution to a financial problem, he added.

The union will launch a campaign of lobbying MPs and local authorities, protests and possible industrial action, legal challenges to staff cuts and workplace issues, and a public debate of the situation.

The meeting called on the NUJ’s general secretary, Jeremy Dear, to meet with employers on a national level, and speak with ministers about media ownership regulation:

“This meeting believes the economic model practised by media employers over recent years – a sub-prime media market – is dead. It is scoops, quality editorial content, strong images and an engaged readership which will see media survive and flourish not retrenchment and soaring executive pay,” a motion ruled by the meeting said.

“This meeting further believes that light touch media regulation and the weakening of media ownership laws has led to an unhealthy consolidation of media ownership.

“Many media owners continue to show they have no coherent strategy that can secure a viable future for media in print, broadcast or online.”

Also discussed: chapels must include freelancers, casuals and contributors in activity and agreements surrounding cutbacks.

The summit also acknowledged the wider global crisis in the industry and pledged to work with both other UK industry unions, such as BECTU and UNITE, and international representatives.

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OMC09: Levies for aggregators?

January 22nd, 2009 | 2 Comments | Posted by in Events, Online Journalism

Interesting suggestion from National Union of Journalists (NUJ) general secretary and Oxford Media Convention panellist, Jeremy Dear, that content aggregators should be subject to levies.

Dear said the union is opposed to state aid for local media and the relaxation of local media regulation rules, but would consider introducing a levy for those who ‘do not produce content, but live off the back of those who do’.

New media and digital technology is not a threat to journalism – the danger is people who treat news and information as just a commodity, he said.

Online media is becoming dominated in the same ways as traditional media, he added.

Speaking to Journalism.co.uk, Dear said the idea is discussed in a report set for release next week, which focuses on public service broadcasting.

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Organ Grinder: Jeremy Dear: end casualisation in war reporting

Journalist Kate Peyton, who was killed in Somalia in 2005, was a victim of ‘the creeping casualisation of the media workforce’, argues the general secretary of the National Union of Journalists (NUJ).

Peyton agreed to work in Somalia to protect her contract with the BBC, says Dear.

“It casualisation makes people disposable and discourages dissent and caution. Staff near the end of their contracts feel they have to go to any lengths to prove their worth,” he adds.

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