Reporters and broadcast journalists engaged in a fierce debate at the weekend on whether to allow the views of fascist BNP members to appear in print.
A motion at media union NUJ conference, calling for "no platform" for fascists attempting to pose as respectable politicians, sparked claims of "censorship" from some journalists, but other delegates urged the union to back "any journalist who refuses to work with the BNP." The NUJ's press and public relations workers' branch collectively demanded that conference especially supports "black union members who refuse to allow BNP members to use their publication or TV or radio channel as a platform."
The sharp exchanges took place as a photograph of delegates arriving at the conference was revealed to have been posted on the Redwatch internet site, which fascists have used to target union and anti-nazi activists. As some delegates urged an immediate ban on all photography at the conference, student journalist Elizabeth Houghton insisted that the union should not be cowed by the fascists.
"If you say that photography must be banned because nazis may use any photo to intimidate journalists, photographers might as well grab their cameras now and throw them on the funeral pyre of freedom of expression," she declared.
Although a motion calling on the union to work to protect reporters and their families from BNP threats because of their coverage was passed, conference voted against the "no platform" call and, instead, "advised journalists to report the BNP responsibly." But Norfolk delegate David Peel insisted that the decision should not stop journalists standing up to the fascist party.
"I fought the National Front in the 1970s and it breaks my heart that I'm still in this fight, but I will refuse to work with the BNP," he asserted.
Conference also responded to the "deliberate media distortions" of the construction strikes earlier this year, when a fight over national union agreements was portrayed in the press as demands for "British jobs for British workers." Delegates urged the union to campaign "to remind journalists covering industrial disputes of the importance of reporting fairly all sides."