Press Freedom

Support for Press claims over Harris

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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.”





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.


Journalists condemn closure of ERT

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Journalists condemn closure of ERT


RELEASE DATE: 12 June 2013

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The Chartered Institute of Journalists condemns the sudden closure of the news service of the Greek state broadcaster ERT as a blow against democracy.

Silencing broadcasters is one of the first actions of those staging coups against democratic regimes, it said.

And it congratulates ERT journalists on their determination to resist the Greek government’s action by refusing top leave the station’s HQ and continuing to broadcast via the internet.

CIoJ president Charlie Harris said: “We are appalled by the summary closure of ERT’s one-air services.

“Greece’s economic problems in no way justify silencing a national broadcaster. On the contrary: at a time of national crisis it is vital that the public has access to as many sources of news as possible.

“The Greek economics professor, Yanis Varoufakis, who described his government’s action as ‘totalitarian’ was right. It was, as he said, ‘a blow against democracy’, which is especially poignant in the country widely seen as the cradle of democracy, and which gave us that word.

“The Institute sends its best wishes to all the journalists at ERT who, it is reported, have worked unpaid since November.

“We wish them success in their fight to keep ERT’s news service running and to get it back on air – in the face of threats by the police to evict them from their offices and studios.

“And we note the heartening, massive show of support they are receiving from the Greek public.”


CIoJ challenges use of Royal Charters for Press regulation

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New Royal Charter for journalists but what about the existing one?

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The Chartered Institute of Journalists is challenging the Government for failing to take into account the Institute’s own charter in creating a new press regulation body.

The CIoJ was incorporated by Royal Charter in 1890 and remains the oldest professional body for journalists in the world. It has a duty under that charter to uphold ethical and professional standards in the journalistic profession.

Institute President, Charlie Harris, said: “How can any proposal for a Royal Charter which ignores an existing charter make any sense or give the public any confidence that this is a credible way forward? To that end, we have submitted our own challenge to both the Department of Culture Media and Sport and the Privy Council.”

Among the points made by the CIoJ are that any voluntary scheme which relies on statutory coercion cannot be regarded as voluntary; that the idea of exemplary damages is unlikely to survive contact with any European Court and that there is nothing in either draft which would prevent the behaviour which led to Lord Justice Leveson’s inquiry in the first place.

Currently two charters have been submitted to the Privy Council – one with cross-party support (Government Charter) and another one from the Press Board of Finance (Pressbof Charter).

Mr Harris said: “The constitution of the new regulatory body has largely been framed as being between publisher and independent members and yet it is journalists who are best placed to recognise corporate wrong doing, or ethical failings and yet they are not offered a seat at the table.

“The Pressbof proposal reconstitutes the Press Complaints Commission with some tweaks which was the reason the inquiry was set up, but both charter proposals rely on statutory underpinning which the CIoJ believes flies in the face of an independent press.

“The public deserve not to be misled by disgruntled MPs and image-preening celebrities over Press regulation proposals. It is time these individuals come clean and admit that when the police do their job, there are perfectly acceptable laws that already exist to keep law-breakers, including those in journalism, in check.”

The CIoJ has submitted its consultation document 



Notes to Editors:

The CIoJ’s own charter was granted by Queen Victoria and includes:-

  • ‘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.’
  • ‘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.’
  • And: ‘Securing the advancement of Journalism in all its branches and obtaining for journalists as such formal and definite professional standing’

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.’

CIoJ condemns sacking of NoW staff

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8 JULY 2011

The Chartered Institute of Journalists has condemned the sacking of hundreds of News of the World staff – both editorial and others.

CIoJ president Norman Bartlett said the union was appalled at the peremptory closure of the News of the World in a bid by Rupert Murdoch and News International to deflect flack over the hacking scandal.

Bartlett said: “This action, which closes a well-liked British institution, does not resolve the issue of despicable behaviour by a handful of journalists.

“It does, however, ruin the careers and finances of hundreds of hardworking employees, journalists and those following other trades and professions for News International.

“It is a cruel and unnecessary punishment on many innocent workers.

“The Chartered Institute of Journalists supports the highest standards in journalism, but deplores this action by News International.”

CIoJ general secretary Dominic Cooper has called on Prime Minister David Cameron to think very carefully before taking any action that threatens the future of the Press Complaints Commission.

This morning [Friday] Mr Cameron seemed to signal the end of the PCC’s system of self-regulation of the printed news media, saying: “The way the press is regulated today is not working”. He described the PCC as “ineffective and lacking in rigour”.

He said that an entirely new system, “truly independent” of both the Government and the Press, was needed.

At a time when everyone from Alex Salmond to the union Unite is calling for tighter regulation of the Press, Cooper warned that a knee-jerk reaction to the NotW scandal would not serve the best interests of Press freedom or the wider public good.

He said that while Mr Cameron had said a new regulatory framework should be independent of the Government, there was a serious danger that it would be nothing of the sort unless time was taken to fully and calmly assess exactly what went wrong with the PCC’s handling of the phone hacking case and how best to prevent such failures happening again.

“While the Institute appreciates the urgency of the need to look for a better system, that must be balanced by the need in a democracy to protect the freedom of the Press and to avoid introducing draconian rules that restrict the work of thousands of honest journalists who have never behaved illegally or unethically,” Cooper said.


Notes to 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.

Contact: CIoJ President, Norman Bartlett, 07711 550523



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RELEASE DATE: 19 April 2010

Institute protests at jailing of Kurdish editors

The Chartered Institute of Journalists (CIoJ) has sent a protest at the way Turkey continues to ignore the European Convention of Human Rights, of which it is a signatory, and to imprison senior journalists for writing about the activities of the PKK, the outlawed Kurdish Workers’ Party. It also calls for the immediate release of journalists now in prison for writing and publishing articles about the PKK.

Verdat Kursun, former editor of the Kurdish daily newspaper, Azadiya Welat, had already served 13 months in prison since his arrest in Istanbul when he was jailed on 7th April for publishing articles about the PKK. The total sentence for 32 other charges against him “for helping and abetting the PKK organisation by spreading propaganda” and “glorifying crimes and criminals” in articles in the newspaper would be 525 years in prison.

At the same time the newspaper that Kursun used to edit has been banned from publication for one month for “spreading propaganda for an illegal organization”. The Institute has also protested at this ban, which is in direct contradiction of the freedom of the press.

Writing to the Turkish Ambassador in London, John Szemerey, chairman of the International Division of the CIoJ, points out that “it is the function of the media to inform its readers of news, without fear or favour.” The Turkish Government must know, he writes, that the PKK is seen by many in the Kurdish part of the country as a freedom movement, and that no Kurdish newspaper, magazine or radio or TV station would be credible if it did not report on the activities and policies of the PKK.

Szemerey, who is also the CIoJ’s representative in Brussels, warns the ambassador that Turkey’s failure to have a free press and its jailing of journalists who report the activities and policies of the PKK will “make it impossible for the countries of the EU to admit Turkey to membership”. Freedom of the media and freedom of speech are basic principles laid down in the European Convention of Human Rights.

“All EU countries have to respect and enforce the freedom of the media and freedom of speech. All EU countries have to live within the law.”

Within the last four years six chief editors of Azadiya Welat have either been jailed for publishing news about the PKK or have had to flee the country to avoid arrest. Ozan Kilinc, Mr.Kursun’s successor as editor of Azadiya Welat, was sentenced to 21 years in prison in February for publishing articles and pictures about the PKK and its jailed leader.

“This is an absolute disgrace, and it reflects badly on Turkey,” says Szemerey.

“It is the duty of the media to report what is happening., to report the truth,” he continues. “Honest and credible media cannot turn a blind eye to the activities of organisations the government does not like.”

Turkey must ensure that is media is free to report the truth, and that its judiciary applies the European Convention of Human Rights in its judgements and decisions. It certainly must do so if it wishes to enter the European Union. All EU countries have to respect and enforce the freedom of the media and freedom of speech. All EU countries have to live within the law.

“Many of us would like to see Turkey in the EU,” concludes Szemerey, “but it has no chance of being admitted to the EU while it does not respect and enforce the freedom of the media.”


Note to 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.

CIoJ congratulates Independent campaign

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The CIoJ has written to the Editor of the Independent congratulating their successful campaign to free Afghan journalist Sayed Pervez Kambaksh.

Letter to the Editor;

Dear Sir,

The Chartered Institute of Journalists would like to congratulate you on your determined campaign to free Afghan journalist, Sayed Pervez Kambaksh.

As journalists we often walk a difficult path and this is more dangerous as we pursue our professional duty to expose corruption, illegal practices, human rights’ abuses and express our support for victims of oppression.

Sadly most people forget this when they judge journalists and the profession and we were delighted to see the Independent fighting to support journalists like Sayed Pervez Kambaksh.

Congratulations once again,

Dominic Cooper

General Secretary

Chartered Institute of Journalists, 2 Dock Offices

Surrey Quays Road, London SE16 2XU

CIoJ welcomes release of journalists

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cioj-armsTHE CHARTERED INSTITUTE OF JOURNALISTS has welcomed the release of journalists Laura Long and Euna Lee from captivity and hard labour in North Korea.

“This is a positive step by the North Korean authorities,” said CIoJ President, Liz Justice, “and demonstrates recognition that the journalists’ mistake was genuine and was no threat to North Korea.

“However, this situation should be an example to all journalists of the potential risks when trying to get their story. It also serves as a reminder of the situations and circumstances that journalists encounter on a regular basis in order to keep the rest of us fully informed as to what is happening around the world.”

Having written to Kim Jong-un appealing for clemency, the CIoJ will write again congratulating this decision.

Arrest of journalists deplorable

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Release date: 3 July 2009


The CIoJ deplores the arrest by the Iranian Authorities of more than 30 journalists and the expulsion of some foreign reporters.   The Chartered Institute urges the immediate release of all  journalists arrested during the current political turmoil and the cancellation of the expulsion orders.

Dominic Cooper, General secretary, said: “Democracy cannot be served by gagging the messengers and if the Iranian authorities wish to project their state as a democracy on the world stage, freeing the press (and the press men and women) would be a better way of going about that quest.”

CIoJ warns that Human Rights Law should take precedence in protecting journalistic sources

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A LOCAL NORTHERN IRELAND court would be guilty of a “serious error” if it ordered journalist Suzanne Breen to disclose her sources, says the Chartered Institute of Journalists (CIoJ) the oldest and most senior professional organisation of journalists in the world.

The court, presided by Belfast recorder Tom Burgess, is considering whether to order the Sunday Tribune’s northern editor, Suzanne Breen, to hand over information about the Real IRA murders of two British soldiers – Mark Quinsey, 32, from Birmingham, and Patrick Azimkar, 21, from London – in Northern Ireland in March. She had received a telephone call from the Real IRA, claiming responsibility for the murders, which she then reported in the Sunday Tribune.

“Confidentiality of sources is enshrined in European human rights law and which the UK accepted in the Human Rights Act 2006,” say the CIoJ and added: “There have already been several cases in which the European Court of Human Rights has overruled national decisions and ordered national courts to respect the confidentiality of journalists.”

The judge had given Breen’s legal team a week to find reasons why he should not require her to hand over her confidential information to the police. The case is scheduled to come back to the court on Friday this week, when the Recorder will give his final ruling.

It is clear, says the CIoJ that her legal team must spell out the meaning of Article 10 of the human rights convention. It should also give examples of legal precedent, where the European Court of Human Rights has interpreted the convention as meaning that national courts must respect the confidentiality of journalists’ sources and of information given in confidence to a journalist.

If the NI court still insists on the disclosure of confidential information and of sources, Ms. Breen must appeal, advises the CIoJ. Should the Appeal Court fail to overturn the lower court’s ruling that would be to the House of Lords.

She should also be prepared to take her case to the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg, which – according to legal precedent – will very likely decide that she should not disclose her sources nor show her papers to the police.

The CIoJ’s view is supported by Ian Forrester QC, who was lead Counsel in an important case about the confidentiality of journalist sources last autumn. The European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) found against the European Commission and the Belgian state in the case of Hans-Martin Tillack, a correspondent for the German news magazine Stern, in which he wrote a series of articles about fraud and mismanagement at the European institutions. The court ruled that Tillack could not be requested to disclose his sources.

British barrister Forrester, who now specializes in dealing with European human rights cases at the ECHR in Strasbourg, comments that he finds it “difficult” to reconcile the Northern Ireland court’s decision with the ECHR’s judgments “about Tillack and the earlier Belgian cases”

In any case, comments the CIoJ, while appeals are being considered or are under way Suzanne Breen should not disclose her sources to the police or to any court.

“Confidentiality of sources is sacrosanct for journalists,” says Liz Justice, President of the CIoJ. “People need to be sure that they can blow the whistle about wrongdoings and tell the truth to a journalist without fearing that their identity will be revealed. In this day and age it allows the public to get to the truth.

“This safeguard may be paramount for the life and safety of the journalist and their family. He or she may well be attacked and even murdered if people who spoke to him/her fear that their identity will be revealed.”


Note to Editors

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

Liz Justice can be contacted on 07780 661926 and further information about the CIoJ is available at