Like thousands of other trade union and anti-racist activists i'm busy scouring through the BNP membership list which has been published (and is on wikileaks) this morning. I've had neo-nazis threaten me at home, publish my details on Redwatch, the right-wing website designed to target and intimidate journalists and trade unionists, and was once physically assaulted by them and had to go to hospital. The BNP have staged demonstrations outside the NUJ's head office and have issued threats to dozens of our members - particularly in Yorkshire. How sickening to hear Nick Griffin on Five Live this morning say he would use the Human Rights Act against to protect privacy when he stands for abolishing the act. Hypocrite.
Anyway, back to business. It was an inspiring weekend. I spoke in the morning at the Labour Representation Committee conference to around 250 trade union activists at Conway Hall in London.
Here's a couple of reports of the conference
Key among my demands was:
"The TUC should be convening an urgent summit to mobilise the labour movement to defend jobs and living standards – building a united struggle across the public services. Building on joint action over pay to develop a labour movement wide campaign against job cuts".
The NUJ is already waging lots of fights against the job cuts and to build on that - and with dire predictions of what is going to happen next year and the news over the past few days - from the Independent to Time Out to Haymarket to Trinity Mirror and beyond - we are holding a summit on tackling the jobs crisis in January. Details will be published here in the next few days.
Then it was a quick dash across to the London School of Economics where I spoke at and chaired sessions at the Islam, the War and the Media conference organised by Media Workers Against the War.
It was very strange to find myself on a platform with Peter Oborne - but his work in exposing the anti-muslim prejudice in many newspapers has been outstanding. Other speakers at the conference included civil rights lawyer Louise Christian, former Guantanamo Bay detainee Moazzem Begg and journalist Nick Davies, the author of Flat Earth News.
In my speech I both praised good journalism and criticised poor journalism.
I said: "Let no-one be under any illusion, just as we welcome journalism which challenges stereotypes we should also welcome journalism which puts the claims and policies of all religions under public scrutiny – from Christianity to Buddhism, from Judaism to Islam.
This isn’t - as some of our detractors would have people believe - about censorship or tacit support for jihadists or providing special protection for islam or muslims. It is about truth, accuracy, balance.
And that is where our media is failing. According to a study carried out by the GLA in just one week in May 2006, 91% of the 352 articles that referred to islam and muslims were negative – 96% of tabloid coverage.
The same report highlighted the fact that the tone and terminology was overwhelmingly emotive, immoderate, alarmist or abusive. 80% of the terminology related to problems, threats or opposition to dominant British values. The most common nouns used were terrorist, extremist, Islamist, suicide bomber and militant. The most common adjectives were radical, fanatical, fundamentalist, extremist and militants.
The terms demonise, dehumanise and create an environment in which attacks on muslims are legitimised and the abuse of their human rights is seen as a just response.
And whilst we bandy around statistics in theories on the streets of Britain the impact of such reporting is there for all to see in the violence against muslim communities in the imam blinded in London, in the mosque destroyed in Basildon, in the Muslim cemetery vandalised in Southall, in the daily harassment and intimidation, in stop and search and much more.
Such poor journalism is no laughing matter. The clear conclusion of all the recent research was that the reporting was likely to provoke and increase feelings of insecurity, suspicion and anxiety amongst many non Muslims while at the same time causing many Muslims to feel vulnerable and alienated. It is a recipe for driving people to the extremes – to the BNP and worst criminal elements of the far right and to those who espouse violence in the name of Islam".
Here's some reports of the conference
No rest for the wicked. Sunday it was off to the NUJ Left meeting.
Monday started by welcoming Miles Barter back to the NUJ staff - he has joined us as our new campaigns officer before meeting with Foster Dongozi, General Secretary of the Zimbabwean journalists union. A video interview with him will appear later today here.
Next stop Parliament and a meeting with John McDonnell MP and senior leaders of the RMT, FBU, PCS and NAPO under the banner of our newly established Trade Union Co-ordinating Group which brings together like-minded unions on a number of common issues. Then it was back to the NUJ for a meeting on staffing issues before heading off to the BBC for meetings with HR (or BBC People as they are called) and a meeting with Director General Mark Thompson and the other FEU unions at which we covered issues such as the move to Salford, BBC finances and BBC Local.
Tuesday morning it was off to the TUC for the Executive which was dominated by the economic crisis and our lobbying of the government to halt forced repossessions. We also endorsed the TUC's submission to Ofcom on Public Service Broadcasting.
Back at Headland House I had a couple of staff meetings before the first meeting of our reconvened Multimedia Commission which produced the Shaping Our Future report last year. We're reviewing the changes in the industry in the intervening twelve months and updating the recommendations for union action.