Thursday, October 19, 2006

Journalists in 'principled stand' shocker

As a journo by trade, I am well aware that my chosen profession is not universally popular in the labour movement. My job takes me to trade union conferences with reasonable regularity, so I know that sometimes the mere sight of a press pass can make delegates unnecessarily edgy, and at times even downright shirty.

But for all that, the National Union of Journalists – and I’ve been a member since 1988 – remains one of Britain’s more progressive unions. So I was particularly pleased to read this story on the Socialist Worker website, although it is not in the print edition:

‘The Daily Star was forced to withdraw a spoof "Daily Fatwa" page just before the presses started rolling [on Tuesday] night in the face of a revolt from the paper’s NUJ union chapel.

‘The page purported to show how the paper would look under Muslim law. It included material that would have given great offence to the Muslim community.

‘The Star's new deputy editor Ben Knowles – who joined the paper from the magazine Zoo in September - was in charge at the time.

‘Planned features on the page headed "How your favourite paper would look under Muslim law" included a "Page 3 burqa babes special" and a blank editorial stamped "censored".

‘It is understood that the page had been signed off by senior executives when around 12 members of the Daily Star chapel held an emergency NUJ meeting at 8.30pm.

‘They passed a motion stating: "This National Union of Journalists chapel expresses its deep concern at the content of page 6 in tomorrow's Daily Star which we consider to be deliberately offensive to Muslims.

'"The chapel fears that this editorial content poses a very serious risk of violent and dangerous reprisals from religious fanatics who may take offence at these articles. This may place the staff in great jeopardy. This chapel urges the management to remove the content immediately."’

The Daily Star is, of course, owned by Richard Desmond’s Express Newspapers. This week, sister title The Daily Express sacked six of its annual intake of trainees, just one month into their supposed 12-month contracts.

Human resources executive Hazel Messenger allegedly told some of the female trainees: 'It's a volatile industry, newspaper. You would be better off as midwifes.'

Express Newspapers is a past financial backer of a political party. New Labour, to be precise.

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