Union secured ‘core participant’ status at the inquiry because it said the voice of ordinary journalists should be heard as well as those of media bosses and police

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The NUJ has told the phone hacking inquiry that Lord Leveson has a ‘once in a generation opportunity’ to improve media standards and accountability.

(Pictured: NUJ general secretary, Michelle Stanistreet and John Hendy QC outside the inquiry)

The inquiry has closed after hearing more than 100 days of evidence, during which the union battled for the voice of ordinary journalists to be heard alongside the main newspaper groups, police and those whom the union said ‘had cause to complain at their treatment by the press’.

The NUJ presented evidence in writing and at the witness stand.

The union was also given the chance for its counsel John Hendy QC to question Rupert Murdoch, who stood down from his role at the top of NewsCorp earlier this month.

The media mogul and former News of the World owner was asked about testimony from journalists who had worked on his titles and had experienced bullying and unacceptable pressure.

His response was: “Why didn’t she resign?”

Lord Justice Leveson had to point out: “I think the problem with that might be that she needs a job.”

In the union’s closing submission, general secretary Michelle Stanistreet said: “It has been clearly demonstrated that a culture of bullying exists in some workplaces, resulting in unacceptable pressure on journalists to deliver the goods, even if that means producing misleading or inaccurate material.

“This makes the practicalities of defending the principles of ethical journalism in the workplace a difficult if not impossible task for many journalists.”

The NUJ said: “A fundamental bulwark for accountability within newsrooms is the role of an independent trade union and, critically, its ability of its members to carry out collective bargaining.

“An NUJ workplace chapel is not simply the vehicle for putting together pay claims and campaigning for better terms and conditions, it is also the place where members can raise issues of concern on matters ethical, on staffing levels, and on bullying and editorial pressure within their workplace”.

The union believes one of the most important outcomes of the Inquiry will be the body established to regulate the press.

Michelle 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.

“This is absolutely not the same as state regulation, far from it.

“Our model is based on the system in Ireland, where a Press Council was established together with a Press Ombudsman.

“It is significant that in Ireland, employers work sensibly and positively with the NUJ as a key stakeholder in a structure that journalists are actively represented within.”

The NUJ believes the circumstances in which the Inquiry was set up was caused by certain media organisations having too much power.

Says Michelle Stanistreet: “Journalism is a force for good, a vital part of any democratic society.

“People choosing to enter the industry don’t – believe me – do it for the money or the career prospects.

“They become journalists because they want to make a difference; they want to play their part in holding power to account, to shine a light in those dark recesses of society.

“They want to do their job well, professionally, and they want to keep their communities informed and expose wrongdoing.

“Journalists do not, however, operate in a vacuum.

“That is why the NUJ has made great efforts in the course of this Inquiry to put the examination of the industry’s culture and practices in the broader context of the current state of the industry.”


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