Delegates attending the union’s annual policy-making conference this weekend passed a motion condemning the PCC for its “failure to mount a proper investigation into the evidence of widespread telephone tapping by the News of the World.”
The motion said the union’s Annual Delegates Meeting was “unsurprised by the failure” and instructed the National Executive Committee of the NUJ to write to the PCC: “Expressing the hope that the new chairman of the PCC and the new director will take the results of the ongoing PCC review more seriously.”
The condemnation comes after the press watchdog published a report earlier this month into the News of the World phone-hacking affair that found no evidence the commission had be “materially misled” by the paper or that the practice was “ongoing”.
The PCC report also criticised articles published in the Guardian that brought the hacking allegations back to public attention.
The NUJ conference, in Southport, welcomed the decision by the International Federation of Journalists to establish an independent inquiry into the PCC’s handling of its investigation and subsequent report. In doing so, the union added its name to a growing list of critics of the commission.
Publication of the report had earlier led a group of MPs condemned it as “a whitewash”. Guardian editor Alan Rusbridger called the report “worse than pointless” and resigned from his role on the commission’s code committee – the group that oversees the voluntary code of practice to which editors adhere.
Then last week lawyer Mark Lewis reacted angrily, calling for PCC chairman Baroness Peta Buscombe to resign, after she used her keynote speech to the Society of Editors conference – in which she defended her organisation’s report – to question evidence he had given to a Commons select committee also looking into allegations of phone hacking at the News of the World.
Leading human rights lawyer Geoffrey Robertson alsojoined the attacked the PCC in the last month, calling on any “editor of integrity” to quit the industry regulator as the commission was nothing more than a “confidence trick” that had failed in two basic tasks of acting as a poor person’s libel court and preventing a privacy law.
A number of leading bloggers, spearheaded by the website LiberalConspiracy.org, then opened a further hostile front against the commission last week after reports emerged that the PCC had plans under review to extend its coverage to the blogosphere – Buscombe then clarified that the PCC’s would only look to regulate those bloggers that wished to sign up voluntarily.