Telegraph attacks NUJ's 'alarming' and 'bizarre' stance on press regulation

  • Telegraph editorial: 'Few NUJ’s members support statutory underpinning
  • 'Barely a hint of consultation', claims broadsheet
  • Members 'may now wish to reconsider their subscriptions'

The Daily Telegraph today accused the National Union of Journalists of “training its guns on its own side” in its controversial stance on press regulation – suggesting it is “no longer fit to represent its members”.

The union recently reiterated its support for the use of statute to underpin a new independent press regulator, a position at odds with national and regional press publishers who support continued self regulation.

Today the union’s general secretary Michelle Stanistreet was condemned by the Telegraph over the union’s “alarming” and “bizarre” support for statutory underpinning, a position that aligns the union with press reform group Hacked Off.

Last week Stanistreet said: “We believe that if we are to achieve independent, accountable regulation it needs to be underpinned by statute enabling a framework for a new body to be established with clear terms of reference, and a structure that involves journalists and civil society as key stakeholders.”

The Telegraph said in an editorial this morning:

The NUJ has recently announced its support for a system of press regulation underpinned by statute – or, as its general secretary, Michelle Stanistreet, put it, a structure that involves journalists and civil society as key stakeholders’.

There are three objections to this stance. The first is that her statement is suffused with managerial gobbledegook of a kind that ill befits a trade devoted to the written word.

The second is that the policy is simply wrong-headed, especially coming from a body that cites ‘working to protect and promote media freedom’ as one of its chief functions.

Perhaps the most bizarre aspect of the statement, however, is its unilateral nature. Doubtless some few of the NUJ’s members would support such a regime, just as some few engaged in the repulsive practice of phone-hacking.

But the vast majority will be alarmed that the general secretary has presumed to speak on their behalf on such an issue, with barely a hint of consultation.

This may seem a parochial issue, but it is vitally important. The defenders of a free press are few enough in number.

For the NUJ to be willing to sacrifice those hard-won freedoms on the altar of Left-wing orthodoxy suggests that it is no longer fit to represent its members – who may now wish to reconsider their subscriptions.

The Telegraph’s editorial comes a day after the union was also attacked in a Sun editorial in which the paper said it was “dumbfounded by the chilling decision of a union in our own trade to back Stalinist-style state regulation of newspapers”.

A number of prominent journalists, including The Observer’s Nick Cohen, have also criticised the union’s position on Twitter.

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