CIoJ Press releases

Town Hall ‘Pravdas’ on notice to quit

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Town Hall ‘Pravdas’ on notice to quit

NEWS RELEASE

RELEASE DATE: 3 October 2014

News this week that the Government is taking action against 11 councils to clamp down on the frequent publication of town hall news-sheets, has been welcomed by a journalists’ body.

The Chartered Institute of Journalists (CIoJ) has campaigned against taxpayer-funded council ‘Pravdas’ for more than six years, on the basis that they are harming local newspapers and being used for local authority propaganda purposes.

This week it was revealed that legal action could be taken in a matter of weeks if these councils fail to stop or justify actions considered not to be in compliance with the local government Publicity Code.

CIoJ member Janice Shillum Bhend campaigned against the launch of bi-monthly Waltham Forest News which, according to the then managing editor of the Guardian series of local newspapers, was instrumental in the closure of their local office and several redundancies.

She said: “We at the CIoJ are only too aware of the damage that these ‘Pravdas’ have caused to local journalism, journalists and indeed local democracy throughout the UK.

“It is more than time councils were controlled and prevented from using our council taxes to tell us only what they want us to hear. Waltham Forest’s exercise in vanity publishing has cost residents in excess of £3million over the last six years.”

Formal notice letters about non-compliance have been sent to the councils. These are the first step to any legal action by the Secretary of State to require compliance with the Publicity Code, using his powers introduced by the Local Audit and Accountability Act.

The Code sets out a range of provisions on the frequency, content and appearance of taxpayer-funded news-sheets. This includes limiting publication to prevent competition with local newspapers.

The CIoJ’s campaign has been backed up by Local Government minister Kris Hopkins who said this week: “Frequent town hall free-sheets are not only a waste of taxpayers’ money but they undermine the free press. Councillors and political parties are free to campaign and put out political literature but they should not do so using taxpayers’ money.

“This is the eleventh hour for 11 councils who we consider are clearly flouting the Publicity Code. They have all now been given written notice that we are prepared to take further action against any council that undermines local democracy – whatever the political colour.”

ENDS

 

Note to Editors:

  • Link to Government announcement here: https://www.gov.uk/government/news/ministers-move-to-defend-independent-free-press

The Government is taking action against the London Boroughs of Enfield, Greenwich, Hackney, Hillingdon, Lambeth, Newham and Waltham Forest, Tower Hamlets Council in East London, as well as Luton, Medway and North Somerset councils over the frequency of their municipal newspapers.

The councils now have a fortnight to show why a legal direction the Secretary of State may choose to issue, is not necessary. Any council that does not follow any subsequent legal direction could end up facing a court order requiring compliance.

  • Formed in 1884, the Chartered Institute of Journalists (CIoJ) is the world’s oldest established professional body for journalists, and a representative voice of media and communications professionals throughout the UK and the Commonwealth.

Tribunal claims down 70 per cent

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NEWS RELEASE

RELEASE DATE: 16 September 2014

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Warnings that Government changes to the tribunal system were a charter for bad employers have come shockingly true, says a media union.

The IOJ, the trade union arm of the Chartered Institute of Journalists, is responding to a report issued (Sept 11) by the Ministry of Justice, showing that the number of applications to employment tribunals has fallen by 70% in the first quarter of this year, compared with the same period last year.

“This coincides directly with the introduction of fees for tribunal claimants, a move which we robustly opposed in a consultation with the Government last year,” said Amanda Brodie, chairman of the Institute’s Professional Practices Board.

“We warned that charging would have the effect of putting off genuine claimants, and of introducing a justice system which would be used only by those who can afford to pay, and sadly we have been proved right.”

She said: “The Government predicted a fall-off of between 25-40 per cent in tribunal applications but it has come out at nearly twice that figure. No doubt many employers will see this as good news but the truth is, it shows that too many people are being denied access to justice because they simply cannot risk losing out financially.

“At the time we told the Ministry of Justice: ‘The system is already heavily weighted in favour of employers, who often have considerable resources to employ expensive lawyers to fight their cause, while the complainant is either unrepresented, or relying on support from a trade union or similar body. The funds available for legal representation from such bodies are limited.’

“The Government claimed the new charges would help to weed-out vexatious claims. At the Institute of Journalists we have many years experience in representing our members at employment tribunals. In our experience it is highly unusual for anyone to put themselves through the stress and potential costs of taking an employer to tribunal, unless they feel they have a genuine grievance. “

ENDS

Note to editors:

“In employment tribunals, the number of single claims received in April to June 2014 was 3,792 – 70% fewer than in the same period of 2013, and a third lower than last quarter.” Source: https://www.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/352914/tribunal-statistics-quarterly-april-june-2014.pdf

 

Institute supports Press Gazette petition on sources

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NEWS RELEASE

RELEASE DATE: 15 September 2014

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The Chartered Institute of Journalists (CIoJ) has pledged its support for the Press Gazette’s petition on protection of journalists’ sources.

“It is vital that all journalists get behind this campaign,” said Paul Leighton, CIoJ President, “because the protection of sources goes right to the heart of our work. If we cannot protect those who come forward with information we will rapidly see a decline in willing informants.

“It is shocking that police are allowed to smash the protection of journalists’ source rights in this way. It is clearly a gaping hole in the law. PACE regulations are the most appropriate means by which to access journalistic material, where a production order would have to go before a judge.

“The police need to immediately justify their actions in regard to Mr Newton Dunn’s information, and then give full details of how many times they have used RIPA to circumvent the rules regarding protected journalists’ material. If they can’t, or won’t, there is clearly something to hide.”

Sign the petition here – http://www.change.org/p/interception-of-communications-commissioner-sir-anthony-may-please-take-action-to-ensure-the-regulation-of-investigatory-powers-act-is-not-used-by-public-authorities-to-secretly-obtain-journalists-phone-records-and-identify-confidential-sources?recruiter=151617490&utm_campaign=signature_receipt&utm_medium=email&utm_source=share_petition

Ends

 

Notes for Editors:

  • More than 500,000 RIPA authorisations will be given this year. So far the police have refused to confirm how many of their requests have involved journalists.
  • The petition comes in the wake of criticism after police used the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act (RIPA) to secure details of calls to and from journalists during the Plebgate affair. No prosecutions were brought. Four police officers lost their jobs.
  • Formed in 1884, the Chartered Institute of Journalists (CIoJ) is the world’s oldest established professional body for journalists, and a representative voice of media and communications professionals throughout the UK and the Commonwealth.

 

Scottish courts to deny journalists access to information

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NEWS RELEASE

RELEASE DATE: 3 September 2014

The Chartered Institute of Journalists (CIoJ) has criticised a decision by courts in Scotland to withhold details from journalists before cases start.

The Institute claims the ruling goes against long-standing principles of open justice.

The Scottish Lord Justice General, Brian Gill, announced the decision in a circular to journalists last month.

In the past, journalists in Scotland have been able to see complaints and indictments for note-taking purposes before cases begin in court.

But Lord Gill reviewed the arrangements because of ‘significant concerns’ about revealing sensitive and personal data under the Data Protection Act (DPA) 1998.

He said: ‘The current practice gives journalists an opportunity to attend and report on noteworthy cases. But it is now clear that the information being disclosed is excessive for this purpose.’

The decision means journalists will be unable to report the charges faced by an accused person, often at indictment level, before they reach court. Cases may be missed entirely if they call in court with no prior notice.

CIoJ Scottish representative, Campbell Thomas, said: “It’s absurd that journalists are being prevented from seeing information that is going to be made freely available in court anyway.

“It has already been established under the DPA that in current cases, the clerk will normally release information to the media if it’s been given in open court, unless there are any unfair implications for an individual.

“Up to now, the unfairness test has only been used when deciding whether to release information on cases after they had finished some time ago.’

Thomas added: ‘Lord Gill’s ruling goes against the century-old common law rule of open justice, where justice must be seen to be done. It will hinder journalists’ ability to cover court cases thoroughly and accurately on behalf of the public.

“We also do not believe it is acceptable for Lord Gill to mention the risks of the media breaching the Contempt of Court Act. This will create a chilling effect.

“It is up to editors to decide which pre-trial details to publish, and accept the consequences if they get it wrong. It is wrong of Lord Gill to introduce the hint of prior restraint.

“The decision sets a dangerous precedent in a democratic society.”

The CIoJ also believes that the decision goes against the spirit of transparency and accessibility for reporting set out in the 2012 Court of Appeal ruling involving the Guardian and Westminster Magistrates Court.

The court decided that journalists covering court hearings should be able to see case material to aid that coverage.

But the ruling does not apply to Scotland.

Ends

 

Notes for Editors:

Formed in 1884, the Chartered Institute of Journalists (CIoJ) is the world’s oldest established professional body for journalists, and a representative voice of media and communications professionals throughout the UK and the Commonwealth.

Support for Press claims over Harris

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NEWS RELEASE RELEASE

DATE: 20 June 2014

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The Chartered Institute of Journalists has backed the two national newspapers who blame post Leveson paranoia for the police initially refusing to confirm Rolf Harris was being investigated.

Dominic Cooper for CIoJ said: “These actions are exactly what we warned and feared would transpire in the wake of the Leveson Inquiry. The biggest losers in this instance could be the additional victims of a sexual predator.

“Hacked Off and their acolytes have championed celebrity protection from the media and it would appear that on this occasion they largely achieved it courtesy of the police.

“Is this really what the public want or deserve? Do they want journalists fearful of putting allegations in the public domain? Are they now happy that during this trial a further 12 alleged victims came forward which means more cost to the public purse.”

Harris was placed on police bail in November 2012 after being interviewed under caution as part of Operation Yewtree, looking at all sexual abuse reports involving celebrities in the wake of the Jimmy Savile allegations, but the police protected his name. Again, when Harris was formally arrested on 28 March 2013, police did not identify him – leaving journalists unable to stand up the story.

Although Harris’ name did appear on social media the press did not dare report it until The Sun broke the pattern on 19 April 2013.

Mr Cooper added: “We do not want the excellent job newspapers do, scrutinising the actions of the rich and powerful, blocked by legal and political power walls.”

Ends

 

 

 

Notes for Editors:

  • The Sun says: “To their shame the Metropolitan police, revelling in the new culture of secrecy launched by Lord Justice Leveson’s abject inquiry, refused to identify him… even after his name was put to them for confirmation… . It may be too much to hope that the celebrities backing Hacked Off’s tribal war on the tabloids would ever pause to think what they’re doing. But let them not pretend, as they do, that Leveson’s recommendations have anything but grave consequences for our press and our democracy.”
  • In a second editorial in the Daily Mail entitled Secrecy betrays Justice they also raise the celebrity legal terriers which fired off aggressive threatening legal letters to newspapers – citing the Leveson inquiry – which argued there was no public interest in reporting he was under investigation for historic sex attacks.

The Mail argues that “disturbingly, post-Leveson, there are many examples of police holding, arresting and even charging suspects in secret”, adding: “This chilling practice is not only an affront to open justice and the hallmark of totalitarian regimes. It also hands a gift to predators like Harris who depend upon their frightened victims believing they are on their own.”

  • Formed in 1884, the Chartered Institute of Journalists (CIoJ) is the world’s oldest established professional body for journalists, and a representative voice of media and communications professionals throughout the UK and the Commonwealth.

 

Press ban amounts to a gagging order

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NEWS RELEASE

RELEASE DATE: 20 June 2014

Attempts to ban parish councillors from speaking directly to the press are an outrageous attack on democracy, a journalists’ organisation has warned.

The National Association of Local Councils (NALC) is telling its members to adopt a new media policy which would prevent councillors from speaking to reporters without the written consent of the whole authority. The guidance also urges councils to adopt rules banning journalists from contacting councillors directly, with all contact made through the council clerk.

Amanda Brodie, chairman of the Professional Practices Board of the Chartered Institute of Journalists, said: “This is an outrageous attack on freedom of speech and democracy. The requirement to get written consent from the entire council before even giving a simple quote to a reporter, will make it impossible for journalists to do their jobs properly.

“Any organisation which spends public money must be transparent in its dealings, and co-operation with the press is a vital part of that process. These guidelines amount to a gagging order on councillors and simply must not be tolerated.

“Parish councils are the bedrock of local reporting and councillors must be free to approach journalists with concerns they may have, without fear of being disciplined for doing so.

“What we have been seeing in so many other sectors of public life recently is the whittling away at access to information, which leads to sanitised and often distorted reporting of the facts.

“This is death by a thousand cuts for our democracy and must be challenged – we are delighted that Communities Secretary Eric Pickles has announced his support for press freedom by opposing this move.”

Ends

 

Notes for Editors:

 

Formed in 1884, the Chartered Institute of Journalists (CIoJ) is the world’s oldest established professional body for journalists, and a representative voice of media and communications professionals throughout the UK and the Commonwealth.

 

 

 

Public reminded of the good power of the Press

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NEWS RELEASE

RELEASE DATE: 12 June 2014

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Details of how media organisations have protected centuries of legal tradition of open justice are a stark reminder of the positive power of the Press.

By scuppering an attempt by legal officials to hold the first ever completely secret criminal trial, the Press has made sure that the public will know who is on trial, opening arguments and the result of the case.

Appeal Court Judges, Lord Justice Gross, Mr Justice Simon and Mr Justice Burnett today agreed that although the “core” of the terrorism trial could be partly heard in secret, parts must be in public.

The Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) had claimed they may have to abandon the prosecution if judges did not ban the press and the public from every part of the proceedings. But media group lawyers raised concerns with the Court of Appeal and today judges agreed saying that they had “grave concerns” about the cumulative effect of anonymising defendants and holding the hearings in secret.

Dominic Cooper for the CIoJ said: “With all the flak that is being thrown at the journalistic profession, people should be reassured, and perhaps acknowledge, that the efforts of the Press are the only reason we know about this case in the first place.

“If anyone needed it, this case is a sharp reminder of the power of the Press being used for the good of the people; and the Press carrying out their duty as the eyes and ears for the public.

“The debate about this case can now be had and that is reassuring.”

Ends

 

Notes for Editors:

  • The two defendants were arrested in October 2013 in circumstances that were widely reported at the time. Mr Incedal is charged with preparing for acts of terrorism contrary to the Terrorism Act 2006 and a further allegation of collecting information useful to terrorism. Mr Rarmoul-Bouhadjar is charged with collecting information useful to terrorism and possession of false identity documents.
  • Lord Justice Gross said: “Open justice is both a fundamental principle of the common law and a means of ensuring public confidence in our legal system. Exceptions are rare and must be justified on the facts. Any such exceptions must be necessary and proportionate. No more than the minimum departure from open justice will be countenanced.”

“For the [secret intelligence] agencies to operate effectively, at least much of their work is secret and must remain so as a matter of necessity. From time to time, tensions between the principle of open justice and the needs of national security will be inevitable.

“We add only this. We express grave concern as to the cumulative effects of holding a criminal trial in camera and anonymising the defendants. We find it difficult to conceive of a situation where both departures from open justice will be justified. Suffice to say, we are not persuaded of any such justification in the present case.”

  • Formed in 1884, the Chartered Institute of Journalists (CIoJ) is the world’s oldest established professional body for journalists, and a representative voice of media and communications professionals throughout the UK and the Commonwealth.

European Parliament student journalist video competition winners

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NEWS RELEASE

RELEASE DATE: 11 April 2014

Journalism student Video Winners celebrate

Competition winner Dan Brown, James Euinton, Helen Barker, Nadine Forshaw, Ellen Millard and Ben Hatton.

l-r: Dan Brown, James Euinton, Helen Barker, Nadine Forshaw, Ellen Millard and Ben Hatton.

Journalism Students Ben Hatton and Ellen Millard have won first prize in the European Student Video Competition with their short documentary Land of Opportunity.

The two Winchester University students will be joined by the other finalists for the European Parliament competition to mark the impact of 40 years of Great Britain in Europe at a party in Europe House in London on 25 May.

Land of Opportunity explored what it is like for immigrants coming to the UK ahead of the highly anticipated lifting of restrictions on Bulgarian and Romanians.

The judging panel of professional journalists and producers commented that Ben and Ellen had made a “good selection of immigrant workers with well told back stories.” They had also “provide a nice combination of press headlines with the vox pops” and “had bought the personal stories to life.”

Second prize was awarded to Nadine Forshaw whose work, Eastleigh, explored how politicians and the media can impact on the views of local mainly white residents. Judges were impressed with her well told story and her analysis of “prejudice around EU in an English town with limited multi cultural plurality”.

Students Helen Barker, Dan Brown and James Euinton won third prize with Coming to Boston. Judges said this had an interesting regional focus and pointed out that EU agricultural immigrants in Lincolnshire contribute to taxes and the video was “well set up visually, with an engaging down to earth voiceover”.

All the winners have been invited to Election Night at Europe House in Westminster, 25 May 2014 where the videos will be shown. Ellen and Ben will also attend an all expenses behind the scenes visit to Brussels later in the year.

 

Notes

  1. Students from across Britain had the opportunity to submit a three to five minute video capturing some aspect of the 40 years since the UK joined the European Union.
  1. The Judges were Press Association’s head of video content, Jim Grice; Professor Tim Crook, Professor of Broadcast Journalism at City of Birmingham University and a senior lecturer in media law at Goldsmiths; Anna Averkiou, media trainer and former producer and reporter with the BBC, TV-am, CNN and MBC; and, Michael Green, a BAFTA award nominee. They were looking for quality of content, technical ability and overall presentation, and, are perfectly placed to know if the modern students can cut the mustard in a real newsroom.

 

The dark side of political power and Press regulation

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NEWS RELEASE

RELEASE DATE: 9 April 2014

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The Chartered Institute of Journalists has called for an independent inquiry into allegations that advisors to the Culture Secretary tried to browbeat a Telegraph journalist investigating her expenses.

Marie Miller’s resignation this morning should not make the issue go away. It highlights the “utter hypocrisy” of politicians rejecting self-regulation of the press, while sitting in judgement on the expense claims of fellow MPs.

Institute President Paul Leighton said: “Throughout the arguments about Leveson’s proposals for a press regulated by statute, journalists were told that their fight to retain self-regulation of the media was akin to “wanting to mark their own homework” and the press should instead be regulated by law.

“Now we find Members of Parliament defending their own – in this case Culture Secretary Maria Miller – over their expense claims and watering down the findings of the independent body set up to oversee MPs expenses. Does she think that by resigning that she can wash her hands of the story?”

Earlier this year Kathryn Hudson, Parliament’s standards commissioner, said Culture Secretary Maria Miller should hand back £45,000 in over-claimed allowances for a house in south-west London. However MPs on the Commons standards committee overruled the commissioner and said Mrs Miller would have to repay just £5,800 and apologise for her “attitude” during the inquiry.

Leighton added: “It is a truly bad day for democracy when Special Advisers at Westminster apparently seek to suppress legitimate journalistic investigation by making not very subtle references to a Minister’s role in piloting controversial legislation about press regulation through the Commons.

“It is hard to believe that a Minister who had already endeavoured to undermine inquiries into her expense claims was not aware of what was being done on her behalf by her staff.

“This is a striking illustration of why neither politicians or Government should play any part in regulating the activities of the vast majority of responsible journalists. The Daily Telegraph asked fair and reasonable questions about the behaviour of a leading member of the Government and was met with obfuscation and what can only be interpreted as ‘veiled threats’.

“Only an independent inquiry will help allay public concern about this matter and ensure that this sort of behaviour does not become the norm.”

Ends

 

Notes for Editors:

Formed in 1884, the Chartered Institute of Journalists (CIoJ) is the world’s oldest established professional body for journalists, and a representative voice of media and communications professionals throughout the UK and the Commonwealth.

 

 

Council rapped for defying publicity code

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NEWS RELEASE

RELEASE DATE: 8 April 2014

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A North London local authority has been rapped on the knuckles by a Government department for continuing to publish its in-house newspaper fortnightly, following a complaint by the Chartered Institute of Journalists.

Brandon Lewis MP told Waltham Forest Council to stop publishing the Waltham Forest News twice a month, which it has been doing for years, in contravention of Government guidelines aimed at protecting local papers from unfair tax-payer funded competition.

Because many authorities ignored the guidelines, the Code has now been made law under the Local Audit and Accountability Bill which came into force on March 30 this year.

The Chartered Institute of Journalists has waged a six-year campaign against this and other councils’ policy of non-compliance with the code.

Waltham Forest resident and CIOJ member Janice Shillum Bhend has been spearheading the Institute’s campaign. She was recently told by the editor of the council’s Waltham Forest News that they would continue to publish fortnightly until they got a letter from the Government telling them to stick to quarterly publication as set out in the new law.

This prompted Ms Shillum Bhend to report the matter to the Department for Communities and Local Government, which resulted in the letter being issued.

She said: “I’m absolutely delighted that our campaign is about to force Waltham Forest council to toe the line at last and stop wasting residents’ money on publishing WFN fortnightly against Government guidelines.”

In a letter to Waltham Forest’s Councillor Christopher Robbins, Mr Lewis said: “It has been suggested that your council might not be complying with the Publicity Code. I can see no reason for any council not to comply – non-compliance would, I believe, invariably involve an unacceptable waste of taxpayers’ money and council resources. I would suggest therefore that you take steps to ensure that your council is in compete compliance with the provisions of the Code. ”

ENDS

 

Note to editors:

A copy of Brandon Lewis’ letter is available here: https://www.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/300008/140401_Waltham_Forest.pdf