Journalists in the National Union of Journalists have come out in defence of students being witch-hunted. The statement by the NUJ Left calls for journalists to abide by basic guidelines for fair and accurate reporting of all sides. The statement warns against journalists compromising editorial independence and standards. The statement is being circulated in the union.
The events of the student march on the 10 November have provoked a witch-hunt in the media and a police operation intent on arresting activists and clamping down on protests against government policies.
The student demonstration was the largest daytime demonstration for a generation and the biggest student protest for many years. It showed the real anger with the Con-Dem proposals to increase tuition fees.
The witch-hunt is part of a campaign against other workers who have been in dispute. The firefighters (FBU), tube workers (RMT) and even NUJ members at the BBC have been the subject of bias reporting, wilful exaggerations and untruths.
Their legitimate grievances in disputes have been ignored, instead we have stories about firefighters striking for £10,000 more (untrue, the dispute was never about pay), tube drivers standing in the way of progress (when the dispute is about safety and staff working at stations) and BBC staff striking to defend gold-plated pensions.
We also note that prominent members of the NUJ have been attacked in the Sun newspaper for their trade union work.
These students and workers are under attack because they have fought back against the Con-Dem government and its supporters.
Role of journalists
The NUJ Left recognises that journalists have many different political views and work for a variety of media outlets. However, in the face of government, police and even employer pressure there is a danger that journalistic independence becomes compromised, particularly in the eyes of the mass of people who support the protesters.
It is therefore important to maintain:
- Fair and accurate reporting with both sides of the story being reported fairly.
- Reporting of facts rather than hearsay or rumour.
- Interviews, reports and footage of events are the personal property of the journalist.
Legally, the police need a court order to obtain film of photos of events and such material should not be handed over without one. However, Furthermore, the NUJ code of conduct says: “A journalist protects the identity of sources who supply information in confidence and material gathered in the course of her/his work.”
The NUJ strongly advises journalists not to hand over any material and will defend any journalist who refuses, any journalist who is asked should seek the advice of the union.
The London Photographers Branch has put out guidance on defending sources and material.
Journalists have also successfully challenged an editorial line on occasions. Please contact the union if you feel uncomfortable with what you are expected to write, edit or sub.
Defence of trade unionism
There will be many more disputes and demonstrations in the next few years and it is important that journalistic quality and standards are maintained when reporting them.
We would also encourage media workers to meet with strikers or demonstrators who are attacked in the press to find out their side of the story.
We will also defend any union member who is persecuted for carrying out their union duties such as supporting industrial action, striking or given support to other workers.
After meeting up early on the 10th of November at ULU, the Free Educartion Bloc feeder march is joining UCU and NUS at Horse Guards Avenue.
From there the National Campaign Against Fees and Cuts and everyone else is marching all the way to the rally in London Bridge.
We will be posting our route (ULU – Horse Guards Ave) soon, but in the meantime you can have a look at the logistics of the national demonstration and at a map of the route here.
Four hundred people, mainly students but some teaching and support staff, attended the EAN conference at Kings College University on 31 October.
The conference was a good mix of plenary rally style meetings and workshops focusing on particular issues, like the economy, unions, the future of education and so on. Plenty of international speakers gave a flavour of the struggles going on across Europe, from France to Greece, with a student from Austria explaining the background to the occupations earlier this year against the Bologna process. The conference also heard from an FBU member who gave an excellent speech on the struggle of the fire-fighters in London against mass sackings.
The session on “Defeating Cuts in your Institution” saw a debate occur between NCAFC supporters and EAN members about how central the fight for free education is in the current situation. Everyone agreed that unity against cuts was central, building for the demonstrations and the anti cuts protests and actions over the autumn was a crucial focus, but NCAFC members also put the case that we could not drop free education as the NUS would still be lobbying the government for a graduate tax.
What marred the event somewhat was the final session where the debates and voting for the final resolution happened. Not only was the ordering of speakers for and against the motions quite weighted to the EAN organisers, the kind of NCAFC members had put in several amendments calling for either unity between the two campaigns or at least a joint conference in the spring with other organisations, like Youth Fight for Jobs, to discuss joint campaigning work. After each NCAFC speaker an SWP/EAN member jumped up to argue against unity, saying that of course they were in favour of it, but it would not be appropriate, or unity did not mean unity with other groups, or that unity would prevent us from being more effective as a campaign. Sadly these vacuous arguments seemed to have some purchase with the conference attendees who voted down calls for unity in favour of simply having EAN as some kind of loose network.
Simon Hardy motivated an amendment calling for EAN to build for and participate in the Free Education block on the November 10th NUS demonstration. Despite several EAN supporters in previous NCAFC meetings and other anticuts forums arguing against going on the Free Education block (because it would divide students and we needed maximum unity around the cuts was the argument at the time) the conference passed the NCAFC amendment by an overwhelming majority, One student argued in favour of fighting for Free Education by saying that if that policy put of the posh students who supported the Tories then they were not welcome (well those were not quite the words he used, but you will get the idea!).
Conference also agreed to back the day of action called by National Campaign Against Fees and Cuts for November 24th, the day that the increase in tuition fees is debated in parliament.
Now we need maximum unity across the student movement to organise walkouts and protests on that day – building the movement from the 10 November demonstration.