Journalists and NUJ membership still waiting on High Court judgement

A demonstration was held outside the Royal Courts of Justice on 25 April by members of the NUJ and PCS unions. Inside, a judicial review was being sought of a court decision which required journalists, media organisations and broadcasters to hand over footage taken by journalists during the ‘disturbances’ at Dale Farm to the police. Despite this militant, assertive and inspired leadership from the NUJ the courts keep NUJ members (and the rest of civil society) waiting!

Click this link to read the NUJ news report.

Confusion reigned in the minds of some members of the NUJ who turned up outside the High Court and considered their three or four-minute participation in a photo-op feeding frenzy of toothless piranhas as synonymous with union solidarity! They were surprised when, on trying to induce those members taking part in the event into a favorable pictorial arrangement to further enhance the ‘newsworthy’ commercial viability of their shoot, they were treated with contempt and derision.

Years of covering union events as observers and never as players has dulled their minds to the fact their own union protest requires something more of a contribution from their person besides the usual cynical exploitation!

The appellant, Jason Parkinson, who was also one of the demo participants, is probably correct in surmising that since 2010 the news industry has seen a dramatic increase in production orders by the police.

Although journalists’ ‘right to silence’ has been enshrined in European law since 1996, the domestic production order situation exists and will continue to exist precisely because the bourgeoisie has no intention of allowing a precedent to be set in regards to the ‘defense of press freedom’.

It matters not a jot that the John McDonnells and Austin Mitchells of this world stand up in Parliament to repeatedly table parliamentary questions to the Secretary of State; the response is always the same: deflection!

A few good apples in a barrel full of rotten ones can’t reverse the process of decay, whether one is an ‘honest’ member of the perfidious Labour Party or not.

No one doubts the union’s commitment to legally defending the vital principle: “the protection of journalistic sources and material”. One can believe Michelle Stanistreet, NUJ general secretary, when she states:

“The media played a critical public interest role in reporting on Dale Farm and the case will have significant implications for the whole of our industry. Journalists are put in danger if footage gathered whilst reporting events is seized and used by the police. The NUJ’s code of conduct compels the union – and our members – to defend a vital principle, the protection of journalistic sources and material.”

Still, the union’s acceptance of the law as it stands, including a raft of other anti-union laws, means this principle has to be fought for time and time again! The seeming reliance exclusively on the ‘NUJ Parliamentary Group’ to act as a guarantor of journalistic freedom is no defining strategy for defense; nor are parliamentary questions likely to induce media-group managements to have second thoughts about a title’s viability and sustainability.

What’s more, having bought into the Leveson inquiry and offered evidence against Murdoch on the condition of anonymity for NUJ members, the union now finds itself in a quandary, since it was revealed during proceedings that Murdoch’s ‘Management and Standards Committee’ at News International handed over hundreds of emails from journalists to police investigating News International, with the likelihood of betraying the journalists’ confidential sources and outing whistleblowers’ identities.

Police have 171 officers on the case – more than they had on Milly Dowler’s murder or the Lockerbie plane crash!

The NUJ is now reduced to begging Murdoch not to hand over any more journalists’ emails, threatening that “unless satisfactory assurances that similar investigations will not take place on the Times and Sunday Times, the union will seek a legal injunction”, whilst somewhat lamely producing sound bites demanding the resignation of culture secretary Jeremy Hunt.

Meanwhile, the prospect of the Dale Farm production order review finding in favour of journalistic freedom, and against the UK police state looks ever more remote.

Not a good day for the working class, it would seem. But all the anti-democratic, anti-working class and repressive legislation they can heap on their books will not safeguard the capitalist state from the mounting anger of the working class, once they learn to direct, channel and focus it in a revolutionary manner. In the last analysis, they are few, and we are many.

Capitalism fears revolutionary consciousness and organized mass action of the working class as medieval townsfolk fear the plague. That is why they set such draconian sentences for boys posting “lets riot”, or “I support the Afghan resistance” on facebook. And that is why they constantly seek to enlist the people to spy on themselves and each other. The sooner the journalistic fraternity realize this, identify themselves with the interests of the working people, and lend a bit of backbone to the struggle, the better.