A rival journalists’ union is trying to recruit disillusioned members of the National Union of Journalists over its stance on statutory regulation of the press.
The Chartered Institute of Journalists is offering like-for-like free membership to those currently part of the NUJ, until their subs are due for renewal.
The CIoJ said it made the offer because of the NUJ’s support for statutory underpinning of press regulation and said there had been an “influx” of NUJ defectors joining in recent months.
It comes after the NUJ backed a cross-party deal on press regulation set up by Royal Charter in the wake of the Leveson Inquiry, which has since been rejected by the industry, which has put forward its own rival plan.
CIoJ President Charlie Harris said the Institute opposed any state involvement in regulation and said the NUJ’s position on Leveson amounted to an “insupportable attack on the integrity of its own members.”
He said: “The NUJ is supporting statutory regulation of the press without consulting its members.
“The CIoJ, backed by its members, believes that restrictions on the press – however light-touch now – open the door to tough state interference in free speech under a future government.
“We have already seen several attempts to shut down embarrassing stories using Leveson as an excuse.
“The CIoJ’s position is clear: the allegations made against the media at the Leveson inquiry involved illegality – phone hacking, bribing of public officials, and interception of e-mails. This was a failure of law enforcement by the police, and others.
“We do not support state interference in a free press, however it is achieved, whether through legislation, statutory underpinning or a Royal Charter.”
Charlie said the CIoJ aimed to promote journalism, uphold editorial standards and protect the freedom of the media.
He added: “We cannot sit back and watch as the NUJ throws away 300 years of press freedom.”
But the National Union of Journalists has hit back at the CIoJ, saying that it has “never called for or supported statutory regulation of the press” and it had consulted with its members throughout the Leveson Inquiry.
NUJ President Barry McCall said: “It is clear from this so-called offer that the CIoJ and its leadership either have not read the Leveson Report or have failed to understand it.
“The Leveson Inquiry certainly uncovered many instances of illegality on the part of national newspapers but what it also laid bare was the culture within those newspapers which not only allowed but encouraged that illegal behaviour to take place.
“This is what the NUJ wishes to see tackled by any new regulatory body and is why the NUJ believes that a strong trade union presence in the workplace and the incorporation of a conscience clause into contracts of employment are vital first steps in the reform process.
“It is also a pity that the CIOJ has not paid closer attention to the NUJ submission’s to the Leveson Inquiry or to the union’s many public statements following the publication of the Inquiry Report.
“The NUJ has never called for or supported statutory regulation of the press and it is a gross misrepresentation of the facts to claim otherwise. Furthermore, unlike the CIOJ, the NUJ has consulted with its members throughout the Leveson Inquiry and the subsequent parliamentary and public debates on the matter and the vast majority of our members support their union’s policy.
“The CIOJ obviously does not understand the meaning of a free press and is no longer relevant to the huge majority of working journalists, despite its own royal charter.”
The NUJ added that the CIoJ could not offer like-for-like membership as it did not organise and represent journalists in their workplaces.
NUJ members can find out more about the CIoJ’s offer by emailing [email protected] or calling 020 7252 1187.