Saturday, January 26, 2008

Media freedom under threat

Just taken part in an excellent conference - Media Freedom Under Threat - jointly organised by the NUJ and Campaign for Press and Broadcasting Freedom.

Giving up Saturdays after working all week can seem like a chore some times. Today it was far from that. From Alan Johnston's passionate account of the dangers faced by journalists working in conflict zones, to Mark Stephens' humorous expose of the efects of the UK's libel laws, Jo Glanville and Heather Brooke's explanation of how the law restricts freedom of expression and freedom of information, to Peter Wilby, Granville Williams and Victoria Brittain looking at the commercialisation of media and its impact on the news agenda to Paul Mason and Tony Lennon debating the future of the BBC - all the sessions were great. And all provoked plenty of questions and discussion.
But what was best was you got a sense of a growing resistance to the attacks on public service broadcasting, to the tide of churnalism sweeping over local and national newspapers and to the restrictions on reporting embodied in things like SOCPA and the Terrorism Act.

What's important is we now find ways to take the debate out from the conference in to the workplaces and build strong industrial campaigns around quality journalism, ethics and reporting rights.

Saturday's conference followed another full day of meetings on Friday, a joint initiative with the US union to expose the lack of proper consultation over the Reuters-Thomson merger and a trip on Thursday to Dublin for the union's Irish Executive Council at which we had a full discussion on the union's financial situationand the need to concentrate on recruiting and organising, especially in an Irish media which is losing many of the protections it enjoyed for many years. As someone said at the meeting they have stopped smirking at how badly off journalists in the UK are as more and more employers adopt the same methods of seeking to marginalise the union and undermine collective bargaining.

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