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NUJ denies that it shut down discussion forum to stifle debate on Drogheda

13 September 2007 - EPUK

The National Union of Journalists has today denied claims made in its own magazine that it closed an official discussion board to stifle grassroots debate on a controversial decision made by one of its most powerful committees.

According to the current issue of the official union publication The Journalist , the discussion board on a campaign website “was quickly closed down” after “photographers began to post messages denouncing the Drogheda deal”

But the claim – which is widely believed by many union photographers spoken to by EPUK – is strongly denied by other union staff who told EPUK that the discussion board closure was solely due to technical issues, and that the timing was entirely coincidental.

The discussion forum was part of the union’s flagship Stand Up for Journalism campaign, which encourages union members to take part in a Europe-wide day of action on November 5th to encourage better quality and standards in the journalism industry.

NUJ member Alan Murphy registered on the the site with 48 hours of it going live, and made one post asking that an attempt to overturn the controversial Drogheda Independent house Agreement be made “a cornerstone of the [Stand Up For Journalism] campaign”.

Referring to the emergency committee of the union’s National Executive Committee’s decision to endorse the controversial house agreement, he wrote: “It would be super if the [Stand Up For Journalism] campaign could overturn the eNEC, and would definitely send a clear message to union members.”

Discussion board suddenly closed

While the discussion board remained active immediately after the comment was posted, it suddenly became unavailable about an hour later. Links to the discussion board were then removed from the official campaign website.

According to Debbie Smith, the NUJ administrator for the Stand Up For Journalism website, the website developed sudden and unexpected technical problems which forced it to crash, and no IT technician was available to fix the problem until several weeks later

“We weren’t asked to close it down, and we didn’t close it down”, she told EPUK. “It just took a long time to resolve this and get the site up and running again.”

When the discussion board came back online last week, all the original posts were present, except for the one made by Alan Murphy.

Accusations of deliberate censorship are denied by Smith, who points out that Murphy has since reposted his original comment, and that the reposted version hasn’t been deleted from the site: “If we didn’t want it on there then the same thing would have happened again”, she told EPUK.

Further NUJPhoto claims

The move came on the same day that photographer Pete Jenkins accused the NUJ’s Deputy General Secretary John Fray of forcing the closure of another union photographers’ email list.

In a letter to the British Journal of Photography which was co-signed by 43 other photographers, Jenkins, who holds senior positions on the union’s National Executive Committee and Freelance Industrial Council writes: “It was the deputy general secretary who insisted that the NUJPhoto list be closed down”.

Fray wrote to Jenkins following the closure of NUJPhoto informing him that the NUJ “does not sanction any restarting of NUJ Photo or other similar organisation which in any way utilises the name, logo or initials or in any other way may give the impression that it is in any way authorised by the NUJ or associated with the NUJ”. Jenkins claims that he only intended the list closure to be a temporary measure , but that Fray’s letter prevented him from reopening it.

Jenkins, who founded the NUJPhoto discussion list and who has since setup a lookalike list independent of the union, previously wrote on the NUJPhoto website: “To avoid a union damaging clash which I felt was becoming inevitable, I took the unilateral decision to close the list”

Journalist editor Tim Gopsill was unavailable for comment at the time of going to press.

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Denying censorship accusations Smith says “If we didn’t want it on there then the same thing would have happened again”.

If the NUJ didn’t shut the list to censor further adverse comments previously then just what “same thing” happening again is Smith referring to.

Comment 1: David Hoffman, 22 September 2007, 05:01 pm

your_ip_is_blacklisted_by sbl.spamhaus.org

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