The National Union of Journalists confirmed this morning that it will not be balloting its membership over the decision to back statutory underpinning of a new-look press regulator.
The union’s stance provoked a heated response among journalists on Twitter and led to calls by senior NUJ activist Chris Wheal for the union to hold a referendum on the decision.
But today a spokesperson for the union told Press Gazette that it would not be holding a ballot because the decision had already been voted on and passed unanimously at its Delegates Meeting held in Newcastle last month.
The wording of the motion, contained in “Composition G”, said that the DM instructs the National Executive Council to campaign for “robust regulation of the press by an independent, accountable body including trade union representatives that maximises freedom of the press” and for “limits on media ownership to prevent future Murdocracies”.
It does not explicitly refer to statutory underpinning.
Earlier this week we reported general secretary Michelle Stanistreet had reaffirmed the union’s support for statutory underpinning – the model favoured by Hacked Off and strongly opposed by publishers.
It led to calls for a ballot of members on the decision and claims the union had failed to adequately consult with members:
— Leo Whitlock (@leowhitlock) November 7, 2012
— GingerElvis (@GingerElvis) November 7, 2012
Think some form of statute-backed independent press regulation essential. Doesn't excuse the NUJ failing to ballot its members.
— Tom Webb (@Treiziemesalope) November 6, 2012
NUJ is betraying journalism by demanding state regulation after 300yrs of press freedom – If you're a member, demand a national ballot NOW
— Neil Wallis (@neilwallis1) November 6, 2012
#Leveson Will have huge impact on industry. I will be proposing NUJ members to vote on the issues once published.
— Robert Miller (@BobRoyMiller) November 5, 2012
Stunned by NUJ backing for state regulation of press without consulting its members
— Kirsty Buchanan (@KirstyBuchanan4) November 6, 2012
— Aidan Radnedge (@aidanrad) November 5, 2012
Did the NUJ ask/poll their members before their decision to support statutory regulation? How many did they consult? @nujofficial
— Dylan Sharpe (@dylsharpe) November 5, 2012
@akefford I wonder why the NUJ would take a stance on such a significant issue without canvassing members views? Odd.
— Alison Gow (@alisongow) November 5, 2012
In his Press Gazette blog calling for a ballot, Wheal said the union "must announce that referendum now to stop members resigning. It must ask those who have resigned to rescind their resignations while the ballot goes on"
He added: "And it must ensure the ballot is free and fair with both sides given equal space and resources to campaign among the membership for yes and no votes.
"The issue is fundamental to a union of journalists. It involves a reversal of 100 years of NUJ policy. Having any form of statute-based regulation flies in the face of the NUJ’s code of conduct: A journalist at all times upholds and defends the principle of media freedom, the right of freedom of expression and the right of the public to be informed."