The NUJ's Code of Practice and CiF

A little while ago I emailed the National Union of Journalists (NUJ) and asked whether their Code of Conduct (reproduced in part below) applied equally to the editors responsible for and authors of threads on blogs.  I did so after a succession of CiF articles which inspired some of the most antisemitic and hate-filled below-the-line responses I have ever seen on CiF.   I have had no reply from the NUJ.

During my search for information, I also found out that the NUJ is quite a secretive organisation, in that one has to be a member of it in order to find out which other journalists are members.   Not being so privileged, of course, I could not find out whether Georgina Henry, Brian Whitaker or Matt Seaton are members either.
When I got to the NUJ’s web page I found its Code of Conduct, part of which I reproduce below.
It is highly likely that the NUJ did not think up and publish its Code of Conduct merely because it wanted to look nice, and that there exists some mechanism within its framework to reprimand or at least call to order journalists who bring their Union into disrepute.  The web page tells us that the NUJ has an Ethics Council but, like its list of members, one can find out who sits on this Ethics Council only if one is a member of the NUJ.
It is also highly likely that Georgina Henry, Brian Whitaker and Matt Seaton are all members of the NUJ.  In order to join they would have had to do exactly what the preamble to the Code of Conduct says and signed that they would “strive to adhere to it.”   Even if they are not NUJ members, the Code should, in theory at least, be a standard to which they should all aspire.
However (assuming that they are paid up members of the NUJ) one would be right to question whether Henry, Whitaker and Seaton have “striven” particularly hard or even at all.   CiF Watch has documented on many occasions the depths to which Henry and her team have sunk in their hatred of Israel and their permitting anti-Jewish racism to remain beneath CiF articles.   Pro-Israel authors have been viciously attacked and, as is usual for CiF, posts in support of them have often been deleted whilst the crude and insulting comments from Israel/Jew-haters is allowed to remain for all to see.
A closer examination of some of the relevant points of the NUJ’s Code of Conduct is therefore called for, and it will be seen that these are more often honoured in the breach than in the observance as regards the Guardian and CiF.  The full Code of Ethics may be found at the link above.  My own comments are in italics after the points):
“A journalist:

  • Strives to ensure that information disseminated is honestly conveyed, accurate and fair  (CiF has come to grief already.  The Editors are hardly fair to those who are pro-Israel, and the information they convey is often dishonest and/or inaccurate).
  • Does her/his utmost to correct harmful inaccuracies  (This gets worse and worse.  Not only does CiF not correct harmful inaccuracies, it deliberately perpetuates them)
  • Differentiates between fact and opinion.  (CiF presents misguided and hate-filled opinion about Israel as fact and so often that it seems to have lost touch with the distinction between them.  The editorial team has even commissioned Hamas terrorist leaders to write for CiF and these are hardly renowned for their dispassionate analysis of matters Middle Eastern).
  • Obtains material by honest, straightforward and open means, with the exception of investigations that are both overwhelmingly in the public interest and which involve evidence that cannot be obtained by straightforward means   (What on earth is meant by “cannot be obtained by straightforward means?” And who decides what is “overwhelmingly in the public interest” and how?)
  • Does nothing to intrude into anybody’s private life, grief or distress unless justified by overriding consideration of the public interest   (How many times has CiF intruded into the private lives or grief of Palestinians, (including during after Cast Lead) in order to get material which tugs at the heartstrings?  To what extent can that intrusion be motivated by “consideration of the public interest”)?
  • Resists threats or any other inducements to influence, distort or suppress information.  (This is an interesting one, particularly the reference to inducements.  Perhaps CiF does not need them.  Perhaps Henry et al believe that they are performing a public service. CiF is already the master of distortion of information about Israel and suppressed a great deal of information about Hamas’ barbarity in Cast Lead, if one goes by the number of articles and column inches devoted to that).
  • Produces no material likely to lead to hatred or discrimination on the grounds of a person’s age, gender, race, colour, creed, legal status, disability, marital status, or sexual orientation  (A resounding failure to abide by the Code of Conduct here.  CiF quite openly and deliberately discriminates against Israel, and, by allowing the monotonous repetition of the same egregious tropes by its commentariat, it manipulates public opinion so as to exacerbate anti-Jewish racism and hatred.  This is its raison d’être).
  • The NUJ believes a journalist has the right to refuse an assignment or be identified as the author of editorial that would break the letter or spirit of the code. The NUJ will fully support any journalist disciplined for asserting her/his right to act according to the code. (Question:  Have any of the CiF editors or writers refused assignments in respect of Israel which would “break the letter or the spirit of the code?”)

 I searched in vain on the web page for an address to which to write to complain to the NUJ about these infringements of its Code of Conduct by the CiF Editors who I believe are members of the NUJ.
However, another Google search did throw up a useful if disconcerting piece of information – that the NUJ itself tried to boycott Israeli goods in 2007 after the Lebanon war, although The Guardian, curiously enough, disagreed with the boycott.  The NUJ came in for a lot of criticism and abandoned that strategy, only to try to revive it once more after Cast Lead.
Of course it is entirely possible that the three CiF Editors are not members of the NUJ and they are therefore not bound by the NUJ’s Code of Conduct.  However if they were to offer that as an excuse for their reprehensible behaviour and lamentable dereliction of duty, they would be little better than the Labour Party politicians whom CiF has recently been so quick to criticise.    The analogy could be rightfully made, that ignorance about what is morally acceptable and ethical in blog journalism is no excuse for not trying to behave ethically and engage with their subject in a morally acceptable way.  Perhaps Henry, Whitaker and Seaton have no idea how to go about that.

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