CIoJ Press releases

Closing courts will stop justice from being seen to be done

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Closing courts will stop justice from being seen to be done


RELEASE DATE: 6 June 2013

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Local journalists will struggle to cover courts if the Scottish Government’s proposals to close ten sheriff courts and seven justice of the peace courts goes ahead, claims the Chartered Institute of Journalists (CIoJ).

The CIoJ has written to Justice Secretary Kenny MacAskill to point out its members, and as a consequence the general public, will be adversely affected by the plans and it will seriously impact on the centuries-established principle that justice has to be seen to be done.

Journalist Campbell Thomas, Scottish representative for CIoJ’s Professional Practices Board, said: “The very principle of law is that justice should be seen to be done. How can this continue when citizens will no longer be able to see what happens with a crime in their town? Local newspapers simply can’t afford the luxury of sending journalists to cover stories miles away because of the time and the traveling costs.

“The annual savings of £1m the Scottish Court Service says can be made from these closures cannot be compared with the human cost that the consequences will bring.”

The plan also restricts high court sittings to designated courthouses and the high courts at Edinburgh, Glasgow and Aberdeen.

He added: “Taking perpetrators away from the places and people where their crime was committed does not help anyone to come to terms with the impact of their wrong-doing in that community. This is especially so if reporting of the trial outcome does not reach that community.

“We are urging the Scottish Government to think again, as the role of local news is fundamental to the community perception of fairness in the justice system in Scotland.”





CIoJ challenges impact of proposed Royal Charter

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CIoJ challenges impact of proposed Royal Charter

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RELEASE DATE: 30 April 2013

The Chartered Institute of Journalists has written to the Privy Council expressing concern that the proposed Royal Charter underpinning press regulation may impinge on its own charter.

The CIoJ’s charter was granted by Queen Victoria in 1890, six years after the organisation was founded (as the National Association of Journalists).

Among the Institute’s aims and objectives set out in the charter are:

  • “The ascertainment of the law and practice relating to all things connected with the journalistic profession and the exercise of supervision over its members when engaged in professional duties;” and
  • “Watching any legislation affecting the discharge by journalists of their professional duties and endeavouring to obtain amendments of the law affecting journalists, their duties or interests.”

CIoJ president Charlie Harris said: “We have legal advice that the charter sent by Parliament to the Privy Council for royal assent could have implications for our own charter and that we have a right to be consulted before any new charter that overlaps with ours is laid before Her Majesty for approval.

“Our general secretary Dominic Cooper has written to the Privy Council pointing out the possible conflict and saying that we would like to discuss the implications.”

The Institute is totally opposed to any state involvement in the enforcement of professional ethics and has warned that however “light touch” the current proposals may be, they set a dangerous precedent, opening the way for a future government to impose much tougher restrictions which would endanger the free press and democracy.

Harris said: “In a free society, a press under state control is a far greater danger than a press out of control.”

The CIoJ says that the alleged malpractices which led to the Leveson Inquiry and the arrest of dozens of journalists are criminal offences, not ethical misdemeanours and that the problem is not a failure of the editorial regulatory system but the failure of the police to enforce the law.



CIoJ backs rejection of proposed Royal Charter

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The CIoJ has welcomed the rejection by most newspapers, national and local, of the Hacked Off-backed Royal Charter governing press regulation.

Institute president Charlie Harris said: “We have opposed state involvement in press regulation from the start and are glad that the trade bodies representing newspapers and magazines have joined us and other defenders of a free press such as Index on Censorship, the Spectator and Private Eye in rejecting the proposed charter.”

The Institute believes that the Government’s charter gives politicians an unacceptable degree of interference in the regulation of the press.

What the Government proposes may be light-touch, but it sets a dangerous precedent, allowing a future government to increase its control over the press, as Harriet Harman has indicated Labour might seek to do.

Harris added: “It is too early to say whether the draft charter tabled by the publishing industry is an acceptable alternative to the ‘official’ charter.

“But the Institute hopes that it will give the Coalition pause for thought and that Nick Clegg, the president of the Privy Council, will delay presenting the Government’s charter for royal assent to allow a full assessment of whether the new proposal has any merit.”


The Chartered Institute of Journalists’ submission on the Editors’ Code consultation.

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The CIoJ has submitted its suggestions as to how the Press Complaints Commission’s Editors’ Code may be improved in order to help journalists go about their duties as the eyes and ears of the public.

The CIoJ’s submission may be viewed here

Public to be biggest losers in a political game that threatens press freedom and democracy

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Release Date: 18 March 2013


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MPs must consider the long-term effects on our democracy of beefed-up press regulation when voting on the issue, the CIoJ said.  It will be the public who will be the biggest losers in what is now a political game.

In a free society, a press under state control was a far greater danger than a press out of control, it warned.

The light-touch “statutory underpinning” proposed by Labour and the Liberal Democrats would, if approved by MPs, allow much tougher controls to be imposed by a future Parliament.

The alleged malpractices which led to the Leveson Inquiry and the arrest of dozens of journalists are criminal offences, not ethical misdemeanours. The problem is not a failure of the regulatory system but the failure of the police to enforce the law.

CIoJ President Charlie Harris accused supporters of statutorily-backed ethical regulation, led by Hacked Off, of hijacking the issue to seek revenge on the whole press for the sins of a few journalists on a handful of national newspapers.

“They are using a blunderbuss instead of a sniper,” he said. “What they are proposing will seriously wound totally innocent sections of the press, such as local newspapers which were cleared by Leveson of any wrongdoing.

“Hacked Off and its supporters, including those in all the political parties, know this but don’t care.

The Institute is angry that Hacked Off has been involved in high-level discussions with the Labour and Liberal Democrat parties from which bodies representing rank-and-file journalists have been totally excluded.

“Hacked Off is a small, private lobby group representing the views of a handful of celebrities and MPs with an axe to grind against the press, backed by a cadre of left-wing academics,” Harris said.

“But it has been granted semi-official status, with privileged access to the corridors of power, and allowed to play a central role in the drafting of legislation which could have a profound and dangerous effect on the ability of the press to hold those in power to account.

“This is what Hacked Off and its supporters want, but in a democracy it is totally unacceptable.”



Journalists condemn Defamation Bill hijack

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RELEASE DATE: 27 February 2013


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Amendments to the Defamation Bill, which were passed on Monday (25 Feb) by the House of Lords, amount to a serious mis-use of the democratic process, says the Chartered Institute of Journalists (CIoJ).

“The so-called Leveson clause, which was inserted into the Bill at its recent second hearing in the House of Lords, and passed at its third hearing on Monday, was a blatant political move and a shabby attempt to hijack a piece of legislation which would benefit Press and public alike,” said Amanda Brodie, chair of the CIoJ’s Professional Practices Board.

“The Defamation Bill is a long-overdue reform of the laws of libel, giving greater protection to free speech and public interest, as well as addressing other important issues such as libel tourism and the new single publication rule relating to defamatory material on the internet,” she said.

“If the Government rejects the amendments when the Bill goes back to the Commons then the Defamation Bill could be dragged down with them. This Bill is the result of years of public consultations and exhaustive research, yet one hasty change, pushed into the Bill by Lord Puttnam just days before it was due to be voted on, could well sink the entire thing.”

Ms Brodie added: “This just goes to highlight how political interference works and why any link to politicians should be avoided at all costs when considering new regulatory systems for the Press – a point which we made strongly at a meeting we had last week with the Department of Culture Media and Sport.”

However the CIoJ was pleased to note that an important amendment to the new clause, which was brought by Lord Fowler during yesterday’s Lords debate, was accepted by the House. This relates to the award of exemplary damages. The proposal stated that in awarding damages, the court shall take into account whether the defendant had sought advice from the regulatory board before publication. These lines have now been struck from the Bill.

“We were very pleased that Lord Fowler, himself a former journalist, recognised the importance of resisting anything which may be construed as pre-publication censorship,” said Ms Brodie.

“We applaud Lord Fowler for his comment during the debate that there is often very great pressure not to publish and the House should recognise just how sensitive an issue that is to journalists.

“This clause, if left unchanged, would have gone beyond what Lord Leveson intended, as he was keen to point out that no-one should have the power to prevent publication by any one at any time.

It also illustrates the dangers of unintentional damage to Press freedoms as a result of hasty legislation of the type being pushed for by celebrities and politicians with a grudge to bear against the Press.”




Guest speaker confirmed

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Guest speaker confirmed for the CIoJ presidential handover

4 February 2012

Siobhan Benita, the independent candidate in the 2012 London mayoral election, is to be the guest speaker at the CIoJ presidential handover ceremony next month.

Siobhan polled 83,914 first-preference votes, finishing fourth, just 7,860 votes behind the Liberal Democrat candidate.

Former Cabinet Secretary Sir Gus O’Donnell said Siobhan, an ex-civil servant, had done extremely well, with no party machine to support her campaign, very little funding or media coverage, and no political broadcast.

She plans to build on that success when she stands again for Mayor of London in 2016.

The handover will be in London on February 20. For full details, or to register your attendance, contact Diane Cooper at the Institute head office.

Licensing laws will cost local newspapers

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Licensing laws will cost local newspapers


RELEASE DATE: 30 January 2013

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Government plans to reform alcohol licensing laws will cost local newspapers £7.3m in lost advertising revenue and could threaten jobs, says the Chartered Institute of Journalists (CIoJ).

Responding to a consultation document issued by the Home Office in association with the Government’s ‘Alcohol Strategy’ CIoJ President Norman Bartlett said: “Whilst the general thrust of the document is for greater restrictions on sale, licensing and effects of alcohol abuse, it is pretty strong on community awareness and involvement yet, bizarrely, it has one section where it proposes to relax the requirements where licensing authorities have to advertise changes of alcohol licences.

“Local newspapers are under severe financial pressure. To take away revenue of £7.3 m from an impoverished industry to give benefit to an affluent one seems bizarre.

Mr Bartlett added: “The document says: ‘We need to maintain the integrity of the licensing system to protect society from those irresponsible businesses that exploit loopholes to gain business at any cost…’ – it is precisely because licensing applications must be published and names given that local people find out about these things. Posting on a website is no better than posting on the front door: only people passing by may read it. How many ordinary members of the public as a matter of routine will consult a licensing authority website? Very few, in the opinion of the CIoJ.

“The CIoJ has no means of assessing the veracity of the numbers in the impact assessment. However it is couched entirely in terms of benefits to an industry acknowledged to be one with anti-social attributes. The local newspaper industry – that would suffer with the withdrawal of advertising income – is virtuous by comparison. It holds local business, government and other agencies to account and supports local democracy. “


CIoJ urges wider definition of public interest

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RELEASE DATE: 18 January 2013


The latest review of the Editor’s Code is a golden opportunity to broaden out the definition of what is in the public interest, says the Chartered Institute of Journalists (CIoJ).

Cleland Thom, a member of the Institute’s Professional Practices Board, said: “The Code’s definition of public interest is narrow and contradicts the fundamental right to free speech.

“The public interest definition is critically important, because it determines whether a publisher is entitled to breach the code in certain circumstances. The stricter the definition, the more restricted our free press becomes.”

At the moment, public interest includes detecting or exposing crime or serious impropriety, protecting public health and safety and preventing the public from being misled by an action or statement of an individual or organisation.

Mr. Thom said: “This definition is ‘taken as read’ during the ongoing discussions about press regulation. But now is the time to question it.

“The PCC’s definition of public interest was made even stricter with changes that came into force in 2010. Now, an editor must justify what the public interest was in a story from the time an investigation starts.

“This means that if there’s a complaint, an editor must provide a paper trail to prove what the public interest was in pursuing the story in the first place. This is certain to curtail investigative journalism.

“Sometimes a journalist has to ‘fish’ to see if a story is worth investigating. This ‘pre-investigation’ may draw a blank, even though the reporter was convinced the story was genuine. Gut instinct and experience count for a lot and cannot be demonstrated with written evidence and a nice, neat paper trail.”





The CIoJ will be taking part in the on-going public consultation on the Editor’s Code and will be recommending that the definition of public interest be altered to read:

‘The Public interest includes (but is not limited to): Any matter that affects people at large, in which they have a legitimate interest or concern about what is going on in society; or what may happen to them or others; provided investigation or publication is not motivated by malice.’

Dangers to local Press from Leveson

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In a journalistic world already run by accountants, closer detail of Lord Leveson’s report raises concerns about a regulator with a similar lack of industry knowledge.

In the aftermath of the Leveson Report, the Chartered Institute of Journalists (CIoJ) says that forming an independent regulator brings with it certain risks that need careful consideration.

CIoJ President, Norman Bartlett said: “Local news was held up by Leveson for its exemplary work, but we have seen in the last few years how this side of our industry is struggling in the current economic environment. Those inside the industry know that this is largely due to accountants, who understand nothing of journalism, running the organisations.

“Now it is being threatened in a way that was never intended by the Leveson Inquiry. Any extra bureaucracy, legal burden and the potential for onerous fines could well drive many more to extinction.”

The CIoJ has already welcomed David Cameron’s initial comments warning about the perils of any laws brought in to regulate the press on any level.

Bartlett added: “We hope that the Prime Minister and the Culture Secretary stick to their guns and are not swayed by campaign groups that have a vested interest in hampering the Press. They appear to be ignorant of the fact that anything implemented at national level will filter through to local and regional newspapers, too.

“We must make sure that our Press freedoms are not jeopardised by the tiny proportion of law breakers who were working within the industry on the one hand, and the loud voices of celebrities with grudges to bear on the other.”