There often comes a point at NUJ Annual Delegate Meetings where – to an outsider – proceedings can appear disconnected from reality.
This correspondent recalls being at ADMs where the union has decided to affiliate itself to the Cuba Solidarity Campaign. This is notwithstanding the fact that, according to Reporters Without Borders, Cuba imprisons more journalists than any other country in the world with the exception of China.
In April 2003, at the NUJ conference in Llandudno, delegates voted unanimously to oppose the war in Iraq. The entire conference walked out en-masse to stage a silent protest by standing in a line on the seafront – with hindsight the protest may have proved to be a prescient one, but at the time it was by no means representative of much more divided opinions in newsrooms up and down the country.
On Friday at this year’s ADM, the NUJ delegates voted, 66 to 54, for a boycott of Israeli goods in protest against ‘aggression’in Palestinian territories.
It was a motion driven mainly by activists drawn from the far left of the union – a group whose influence at ADM far outweighs their strength in the membership as a whole.
While the far left fringe add much to the strength of the union with their activism and enthusiasm, it is this kind of political posturing which still puts many journalists off joining the NUJ.
There is so much that the vast majority of journalists can agree on: the need for fairer wages, especially in the regional press; the defence of press freedom; the improvement of ethical and professional standards; the need to protect good editorial resources in the face of commercial pressure.
The NUJ should concentrate on these issues, and when it comes to international matters concentrate on protecting journalism and press freedom worldwide, instead of forming positions on highly divisive geo-political conflicts which risk alienating the rank-and-file membership.