|NUJ General Secretary Michelle Stanistreet (Pic Jess Hurd)|
By Michelle Stanistreet
NUJ General Secretary
THE CRACKS began to show at News International last year in the wake of the closure of the News of the World. Journalists and staff at the paper lost their livelihoods overnight. Some reporters were plunged into the most Kafkaesque of circumstances – sacked without a penny for alleged “wrongdoing” without even being told what they were supposed to have done wrong, deprived of an internal investigatory or appeal process because it might compromise a potential police investigation. Reputational damage, financial and emotional limbo – these people have been hung out to dry.
And now the bodies are mounting. It is clear in the wake of last week’s arrest of five Sun journalists that, no matter how loyal or committed to the News International cause journalists have been, their careers and livelihoods are now nothing more than collateral damage in a mission with only one purpose - the preservation at all costs of Rupert Murdoch’s empire.
The NUJ has been defending many journalists at News International – reporters, subs, photographers and others – who have given decades of their life to Murdoch’s newspapers yet who have been cynically and brutally dispensed with in a consistent corporate policy of damage limitation and obfuscation.
The corporate strategy has been nothing if not consistent – blame those lower down the rung and ringfence those truly responsible at the top. The actions of the Management and Standards Committee show there is now no way back.
As well intentioned as those individuals may be who are involved in News International Staff Association – set up by Murdoch as a union-busting move to legally block the NUJ from seeking recognition – the organisation is not capable of providing journalists with independent representation and genuine protection. Murdoch gave it life, he sustains it with his own money - the links are seamless.
So NISA needs to go. Journalists need to have real collective protection and representation – for that they need a proper trade union, they need the NUJ.
My message to all journalists at News International is clear – it’s time for action. If you want protection that’s independent, that puts journalists and journalism first – you need to join the NUJ now.
If you want a collective independent voice sticking up for your rights at work, a union that puts journalistic ethics first and doesn’t pay mere lipservice to the fundamental principle of protecting your sources, you need to join the NUJ now.
I’ve taken calls from many whistleblowers and sources in recent days who are frankly terrified that they will be arrested or sacked any day now. They cannot believe that the confidentiality they were promised has been breached.
Change is possible. Just as the establishment of NISA was a loophole in the recognition legislation served up to Murdoch by politicians in his thrall, so there is a loophole that will open up the door to real trade union protection.
If ten per cent of journalists at News International say they want NISA to be derecognised, the case can be made and won. With derecognition comes the opportunity for recognition of the NUJ.
I need journalists on the titles to get in touch, to join the NUJ and to come together to form an organising NUJ chapel.
Two eminent QCs – Geoffrey Robertson and John Hendy – are working with me on a range of legal measures to challenge the actions of the MSC and to provide help and support to members at News International before more members are thrown to the wolves. I will need journalists willing to be part of this legal challenge.
There’s no time to wait. The company has shown where loyalty and committed service leads to. Journalists need an independent voice like never before. It’s time to join the NUJ and work together to stand up for journalists and journalism across News International.