The National Union of Journalists (NUJ) last night launched its campaign to encourage the British media to give greater scrutiny to far-right political parties or risk political apathy letting in the British National Party.
Michelle Stanistreet, deputy general secretary of the NUJ was the main speaker at the EXPOSE event in Sheffield, a city represented in the European Parliament by BNP candidate Andrew Brons.
"Journalism comes with a responsibility. We have to face the reality of what happens when we don't do our job properly. We are encouraging our members to scrutinise people from across the political parties. But at the minute the BNP just isn't being scrutinised properly," Stanistreet said. "We need people to know the difference between what these people are saying on TV and what they actually stand for. This needs to be exposed through the media."
The NUJ has previously spoken out against the BBC's decision to put Nick Griffin on Question Time and has created a guide to journalists for reporting the BNP.
The panel, including the Sheffield Star's Julia Armstrong, also criticised falling standards in reporting for allowing extreme policies to go unchallenged. Armstrong, who has been targetted by the Redwatch site, said that cuts made by Johnston Press were leading directly to "churnalism". She said: "Because of the cuts made over the last two to three years it's tough to do your job."
Referring to the new Atex technology being introduced by the group, which is the subject of tomorrow's strike action by Johnston Press journalists in Scarborough, she said: "Our new content management system is more 'mismanagement'. The Johnston Press slogan is 'life is local', but it doesn't believe that. Life isn't local to them, it's centralised."
On the proposed relocation of sub-editors from Scarborough newspapers to Sheffield, she said: "It basically means job losses. People won't make that journey. They will either take up reporting positions and take a cut in pay or take redundancy."
Dr Rhetta Moran, secretary of Greater Manchester Unite Against Facism and an NUJ member, also featured at the event, which was attended mostly by student journalists.
Moran was arrested at the English Defence League's protest in Bolton on 20 March and the union is working with her to appeal against her arrest. She said: "The difference between the EDL and the BNP is becoming more fluid. The reality is that neither gets the scrutiny it should in the media. Above all we need to raise awareness of the need to vote."