Saturday, January 11, 2014


Dear Readers,
          The British media, that upholder of justice, freedom of speech and all that jazz, has one rule for everybody else and a very different, shocking one for itself.
          This takes the Pulitzer prize or whatever the British equivalent is if there is one, for deplorable double standards worthy of the best expose`.
         With a clear conscience it is happily maintaining that old maxim that a cornered journalist is no different from anybody else when it comes to covering up - he is 10 times worse.
         Fortunately I was able to get the inside story by hiring a retired reporter who had honed his hacking skills on the News of the World that was brought down by the kind of morality that is being fostered by Britain’s National Union of Journalists (NUJ).
         Of course I can’t reveal the information he got for me – that would be telling.

         But I can disclose how the NUJ, which claims to be the largest union of its kind in the world with 38 000 members in England, Wales, Scotland, Ireland and the Channel Islands, protects its own rotten eggs. And as they are the main purveyors of the news they have been able to keep this scandal well and truly under wraps.

Not even a whiff has leaked out until now. The stink, however, is pretty overwhelming.

The NUJ’s website is full of moral wisdom as well as a code of conduct that stipulates how members should behave when dealing with the public.
Her are some examples:

Members should strive to ensure information disseminated is honestly conveyed, accurate and fair.

They should differentiate between fact and fiction.

And anybody looking at its website must agree not to impersonate another person or use a false name to try to mislead others as to the origin of any communication

Publish or post defamatory information.

Threaten, harass or abuse others.

So it’s reasonable to assume that it requires all its members to abide by all these high ideals.

 In reality this is just window dressing.

This is what happened when I complained that Ian le Sueur a freelance photographer and Murray Norton a BBC radio presenter in the Channel Island of Jersey had relentlessly cyber-bullied my son Simon on social media. He died prematurely of a heart attack aged 47 (See my posts DID CYBER-BULLIES KILL SIMON ABBOTT? CYBER WOLVES HUNTING SIMON ABBOTT etc).

         They made him out to be a con man who was pocketing money collected for a charity he started when there was no evidence to support these allegations. Simon was trying to raise money for women with post natal depression after his sister committed suicide while suffering from this problem.

Le Sueur even admitted in an email that he hid behind a false name to do his dirty work.
An internet item showed that Le Sueur was a freelance member of the NUJ, but I could find nothing that indicated Norton was a member although it does accept broadcasters and he claimed to write for newspapers and magazines.

         However the Union is a secret society. I was told they could not confirm or deny that either of these two were members. And the punch line was the union does not take complaints from the public.

         This comedy became even more laughable when I persisted. It was only then that I was told to submit my complaint against Le Sueur while they still refused to say whether or not he was a member.  Under protest this is what I did.

         Weeks later when I asked what progress had been made I was told that as they only considered complaints from members mine had been passed down to the level of Le Sueur’s chapel to see if a member would sponsor it, but surprise, surprise nobody was prepared to do this. In my limited experience the people in the chapel would be the ones most likely to be his friends, making this even more of a charade.

         On my own initiative I contacted Professor Chris Frost head of the Journalism Department at Liverpool’s John Moores University. He chairs the NUJ’s Ethics Council and is a National Executive Council member.
I told him that having been an NUJ member many years ago I was appalled to learn that the NUJ will only take complaints about an NUJ member from another member.

         That’s like saying nobody can complain about police brutality, corruption etc unless it comes from another policeman, I went on. It’s a protection racket that hardly goes with the media’s image of upholding justice, free speech etc. It makes nonsense of your code of conduct.

        He then made this astounding admission: I’m afraid we don’t have the resources, financial or human, to deal with complaints from the public. During the eighties we did take complaints, but the number soon headed into the hundreds and became impossible to manage.
         Its remedy was a laughable pretence at policing that would no doubt be the perfect answer to virtually eliminate complaints from the public in any organisation.
         We put in place the filter of complaints only coming from members, the Professor explained. We do pass them to branches or deal with them ourselves as the Ethics Council on occasion as this gives us the opportunity to take cases of significance. 

          How many NUJ members have been prepared to join the popularity queue by lodging a complaint again a fellow member I wonder? 

         What’s more the decision to effectively ignore the rogue members in its ranks doesn’t comply with the NUJ’s own rules.

         Rule 17 states: Ethics Council: There shall be an Ethics Council charged with the responsibility for the promotion and enforcement of the professional ethical standards of the union, with particular reference to the enforcement of the union’s code of conduct and with research and debating ethical issues on media freedom and regulation.

         This Ethics Council has the following duties.

1.   To promote the unions code of conduct among the general public and to publicise its own work on ethical matters (How can it possibly be doing this if it doesn’t take complaints from the public and doesn’t mention this on its website or as far as I could see in its rules)

2.   To promote high ethical standards among the membership (Ha! Ha! Ha!).

3.   To hear complaints against members under the code of conduct (Only the very few if any that get through its own censorship system).     

     After a recent court case in Scotland the Union got good publicity by proclaiming that it has pledged to continue its campaign against online bullying of journalists.

     Its double standards were showing once again when it gave me a hard time trying to lodge my complaint against one or more of its members for doing something similar.

     In that case David Limond a football supporting yobo called Glasgow reporter Angela Haggerty Taig (a derogatory term for a Catholic or Irish nationalist) of the day because of her Irish heritage and scum of the day on social media. He also encouraged other people to abuse her on Twitter. This was evidently because of her coverage of the financial collapse of the Rangers club.
     This bullying had many similarities to the way Le Sueur and Norton attacked my son. But Scotland dealt with it a lot more efficiently than the authorities in Jersey. Limond got sent to jail for six months while the Jersey Police decided, after taking legal advice, that no offences had been committed.
DAVID every girl's dream
     In any event Jersey’s Data Protection law appears to be reserved for convicting and imprisoning people the Island’s hierarchy doesn’t like, not to stop the average person from being slandered on the internet.
         Here are quotes from the NUJ’s website and two of its most prominent members that make what it is doing on its ethics side look even more ridiculous. My comments are in brackets.

         We need firmer regulation from a body that is there to protect press freedom, press standards and ethics by listening to the public …. Professor Frost talking about proposals to change the way the Press is regulated in Britain.

         The Union does not back statutory regulation of the press. We support an independent system of regulation – independent from the industry and, crucially, from government (No wonder when the Union can’t even regulate itself properly). For long years the Union has campaigned for a more accountable press and for high standards of journalism (Yet it sets a virtually non-existent standard when it comes to disciplining its own members) .... Michelle Stanistreet the Union’s General Secretary.

         Journalism at its best uncovers the truth, secret courts hide evidence. The open Justice Project has teamed up with the Union to offer training on the Justice and Security Act, a law that conceals information from the public, denies independent media scrutiny and insulates the government from scandal ( Doesn’t refusing to take complaints from the public insulate the Union from scandal?) …. Union’s website.

         Not all is lost as far as my complaint is concerned. The NUJ just might redeem itself, but it looks as though it is a very big MIGHT.

         In the last email I received from it I was told the Council will have another look at it at our next meeting, but I’m afraid you should not assume from that that the Council will agree to pursue the complaint further.
         Now I know what it’s like being the mouse in a game of cat and mouse.
         That meeting is on 20 January so we will see what happens.

         Jon, the disgusted Poor Man’s Press Ombudsman.

No comments:

Post a Comment