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Press photographer runs for NUJ General Secretary

10 September 2001 - EPUK

Photographer Kevin Cooper is running to become the National Union of Journalists (NUJ) General Secretary. It is nearly a decade since the Union has had a working journalist at the top and it has never before had a photographer.

Fighting strong competition in the election by postal ballot this September, Kevin will campaign with 19 years all round experience behind him as both a staff and freelance press photographer and on his record as a trade union activist and freelance representative on the Union’s National Executive Committee:

“As an NUJ activist based in Belfast, I defended journalists under paramilitary threat, protected the NUJ press card from being supplanted, made representations to the RUC press office in support of members and campaigned against the interference of government and the broadcasting ban.”


Last year Kevin co-ordinated the successful campaign to defend Ed Maloney, northern editor of the Sunday Tribune, who refused to surrender his notebooks during investigations into loyalist shooting of solicitor Pat Finucane. Ed has said of Kevin “If journalists likeme are to protect their sources, we need a general secretary who knows the importance of journalistic freedoms and how they should be defended.”

As a result of his anti-sectarian record he now sits on the new Northern Ireland Civic Forum, set up under the Good Friday Agreement, & chairs their Communications Committee.


His years of experience as a negotiator, fighting redundancies, wining reinstatement cases, and defending members in disciplinary hearings gives him the widespread support throughout the Union that now makes him a front runner.

Recently he has concentrated on the all-important copyright battles erupting on all sides. In between trying to earn a living he has been drafting model agreements, in talks with the BBC Worldwide, The Express and Corbis, helped to found the Union’s Copyright Committee, and helped to organise the International Federation of Journalists Authors’ Rights Summit 2000, and the Creators’ Rights Conference earlier this year.

His answer to the question “Why you?” is simple: ” Because I think I could do a good job! – Photographers need a union that understands and responds to their problems like copyright, non-payment, contract advice. When you have just been arrested as a working photographer you need to know that legal help is on its way as well as knowing the NUJ will campaign for your release. We need an NUJ committed to today’s industrial, professional and equality issues that upholds quality journalism and defends journalistic freedoms.”

Largest union

The NUJ is the largest journalists’ union in Europe, with a membership of at least 26,000 working journalists, and rising. Estimates vary, but of these about 2,000 are thought to be working photographers. Current General Secretary John Foster has been in post since 1992 and retires in 2001. Applications for the post closed on 28th August this year, ballot papers go out on September 20th, the ballot closes on October 23rd, the votes will be counted and the result declared on October 24th.

There will be six candidates running for the General Secretary election

Kevin Cooper – Photographer, see above
Bernie Corbett – General Secretary of the Writers’ Guild, ex NUJ Freelance Organiser
Jeremy Dear – NUJ Organiser for National Newspapers & Agencies
Jake Ecclestone – former NUJ Deputy General Secretary
John Fray – current NUJ Deputy General Secretary
Chris Youett – NUJ Freelance Industrial Council member

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