Friday, June 20, 2008

Remembering Ron

It was hugely sad to hear the news of Ron Knowles death earlier this week. I only had the opportunity to meet Ron when he was over for the Centenary ADM - but found him hugely likeable. But i feel i know a lot about him by the reverential tones others speak of him. Having just read the comments others have left on the story on our website it is clear he was an inspiring figure for so many activists. If you want to know more about Ron's work or life read the NUJ's history (insert shameless commercial plug - ed) available here.

Ron was a fighter and he'd have been proud of the union backing cases like that of Shiv Malik - who fought off the police's fishing expedition aimed at forcing him to hand over huge swathes of journalistic material. It was a short court hearing on Thursday morning but a judgement with real value in defending investigative journalism against increased police powers of seizure.

I'm all committee-d out. Wednesday was Finance Committee and trying to come to terms with drawing up the union's budget at a tough time financially. We're still not there yet. Thursday was Policy Committee and beginning the process of working out how to implement all those motions from the annual conference on media ownership, freelance rights, employment legislation, human rights and international solidarity issues. It's a huge agenda for the year ahead. Today is Development Committee looking at the union's structure review, Journalism Matters campaign , disputes, recognition and recruitment and campaigning priorities. An even bigger agenda!

Outside of the committees I've been trying to keep up with phone calls, emails and correspondence. This morning I and Christine Blower, acting General Secretary of the NUT met Lord Malloch Brown, the Foreign Office Minister to discuss Ethiopia - and the imprisonment of journalists and teacher union activists, the closure of independent media and the banning of the Ethiopian Journalists Free Press Association and Ethiopian Teachers Association. Lord Malloch Brown agreed to raise the issue of human rights when he meets the Ethiopian Prime Minister shortly.

We also submitted our response to the Ofcom consultation on public service broadcasting yesterday making it clear we oppose top-slicing, want action against cuts at ITV and believe there are options which should be properly considered and actively investigated to maintain and strengthen public service broadcasting in the future.

There will be little time for a break this weekend with two meetings on Saturday, including the memorial for Steve Sinnott and an anti-racist demonstration.

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