NUJ condemns Richard Desmond's 'meddling' as Express staff opt for strike

The NUJ has expressed concern over Express Newspapers proprietor Richard Desmond’s alleged interference in editorial matters after journalists on the papers voted to go on strike.

In a statement the NUJ said journalists at the Express titles had expressed concern over the “continued interference of the proprietor Richard Desmond in the editorial decision making on the titles – meddling which they believe led to the damaging series of headlines and coverage that prompted the McCann family to threaten legal action”.

Last week, in an unprecedented move, Express Newspapers carried front-page apologies on all four of its national titles: the Daily Express, Sunday Express, Daily Star and Daily Star Sunday. They agreed to pay Kate and Gerry McCann £550,000 in libel damages after the pair sued over more than 100 articles which they claimed where libellous.

The stories included claims that the pair were involved in their daughter’s disappearance last year, that they were party to a cover up and that they were involved in wife-swapping.

Michelle Stanistreet, NUJ President and union representative at the Express, said: ‘We want the editors to be left to edit, free from commercial interference that puts opportunities to boost circulation ahead of journalistic integrity.

‘Our titles need real investment, instead we face continuous rounds of budget cuts and inadequate staffing levels. Now we’re being told to take a below inflation pay offer and be grateful we’re not facing more redundancies this year – we’ve simply had enough.”

The Express Newspapers NUJ chapel announced yesterday that it will strike over management’s offer of a 3 per cent pay rise.

Journalists will undertake three 24-hour stoppages next Friday and on the following two Fridays.

NUJ national newspapers organiser Barry Fitzpatrick said: ‘The ballot result sends a clear signal to management at Express Newspapers that its journalists have had enough: they’ve had enough of poor pay and unfair treatment at the hands of their employer. We’ve tried to make the company see sense but it has come to nothing and NUJ members now feel that they have no choice but to take this action.”

In January 2004, journalists in the Express Newspapers NUJ chapel wrote to the Press Complaints Commission claiming that they felt they were “coming under pressure to write anti-gypsy articles”.

In August 2001, NUJ members at the Express titles passed a motion “expressing disapproval at the sustained campaign against asylum seekers in pursuit of circulation”.

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