Benn Lecture sparks attacks on NUJ

BRISTOL NUJ’S Benn Lecture later this month on the Leveson Inquiry has been the cause of attacks on the NUJ for allegedly calling for state regulation of the Press.

The Sun and Guido Fawkes have both picked up on publicity we put out for the lecture, which features NUJ general secretary Michelle Stanistreet and Mick Hume, author of There’s No Such Thing as a Free Press.

In the press release we sent to local and selected national media, we used quotes from the NUJ’s evidence to Leveson, calling for legal underpinning for a new press regulator.

There was nothing new in it – the evidence was delivered months ago – but yesterday (November 5th) the Guardian, Press Gazette and today the Sun and Guido Fawkes have treated it as controversial – presumably because they mainly oppose any kind of statutory regulation.

Personally I think the NUJ has been misrepresented, and I’ve said so in a couple of online comments (Strangely my post to Guido didn’t get published.)

The Sun today claims Michelle Stanistreet “wants to surrender centuries of hard-won Press freedom for Government control of the Press. We would end up like Russia, Zimbabwe and Iran, with State stooges and politicians deciding what can or can’t be printed in your Sun.”

Hardly fair … nor is Guido: “Increasingly isolated NUJ boss Michelle Stanistreet has unilaterally announced the union’s support for state regulation of the press. ”

None of that is true, of course: it was a democratic process, it was far from unilateral, and we don’t support state regulation – just legal underpinning for a regulator, because self-regulation has failed.

There’s been extensive debate online at Press Gazette, Guido Fawkes, and the NUJ Linked In site, among other places.

My view is that this policy attracted almost no controversy when it was announced at Leveson. Much of the opposition seems to be from owners and editors who have much to fear from an effective press regulator.

But now, some NUJ members are calling for a ballot to approve or reject the policy.

Bristol branch has a meeting next week – Tuesday November 13th, 7pm, Bristol YHA. If you want to discuss this (and you’re a member), come along.

Or email me: p.breeden@blueyonder.co.uk.

Paul Breeden, chair, Bristol NUJ

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