It is a myth that equality exists, we still live in a world where the rich dominate and the poor suffer.

April 30, 2007

Every year “May Day” brings more painful memories of workers world-wide. Workers are injured, died, sacked, insulted and beaten in almost every corner of the world. According to the British campaigning journalist John Pilger, the suffering of one set of people rarely gets any coverage in the populous media. This is coined ‘slow news’. It is a know fact that business tycoons who own multinational companies and large business units have close links or partnerships with political clergies and military elite’s of the countries. From Europe to Latin America, and to Asia sufferings are mounting each passing day.The Rich is becoming richer; sadly the poor worker is battling for the basic needs of life. 

An increase of 260% of 1000 richest people in Britain has been recorded in last decade, a Sunday Times report revealed. This trend is reflected else where in the world where few people control whole resources. The rich class has common interests in acquiring businesses, manufacturing units and other trading means; they buy in pennies and sell in pounds. Leading Western brands in the garments, sports, leisure, and other fields have production units in far away places in
Asia where they pay labour workers in pennies. Sadly this well known fact is still going on and will continue to for years to come, as no body cares that the companies are earning billions of pounds and dollars.
Fair Trade is new phrase invented by the competing brands; their slogan is “a better deal for the third world producers.” Supermarkets that buy a variety of food produce at cutting prices from Africa, Asia and
Latin America sells to public at multiplying prices.
 The business organisations are portraying themselves as champion of donors to the third world. These multinational companies are involved in humiliation of the workers.  

In third world countries the poor have no choice, but to sell their crafts to the rich, who earns profits 100 times by selling the remarkable pieces of embroidery, handicrafts, and decorations in the exhibitions.    In 1998-9 the then Prime Minister of Pakistan, Mian Nawaz Sharif, established grievances cell under Chairmanship of Zhaid Anwer Wahla a retired bureaucrat, who worked closely with communication minister Mushahid Hussain, to address the complaints of oppressed people in the country. This cell worked for approximately one year and resolved thousands of cases of various types that concerned the general public. A dispute aroused between minister and the chairman on use of power, which left the workers unpaid for their services that continued for one year.  Later in October 1999,  in a military coup the staffers were sent home for portraying their appearance in the office which was claimed to be illegal. M. A. Hashami, a volunteer aid worker, appointed director of the cell is still fighting for the salaries of underprivileged staffers, many of them have suffered worst conditions after been fired from job by their own military.  

Mushahid Hussain joined the military government and is currently a successful politician living lavishly. Zahid Anwer Wahla is in the queue to be a part of the new government. While the remaining ‘fat cats’ of the grievances cell made good deals during their stay. The effected staffers remain living in hope that somewhere some one could be a saviour for these oppressed helpless people. Such slow news stories exist in every part of the world, but this news is not addressed for the poor, it is for the rich to thrive off. The parents of these children wait for years, praying for the day their children will get a good enough job to be able to afford to buy them food.  In the third world countries harassment, unpaid working hours and personal abuses are common practices. Among the most badly treated are house servants who face sexual abuse and insulting behaviours. These are slaves whose voices are never heard. We might think so as the world marks the 200th anniversary of the slave trade, but in the year 2007 there still more than 12 million slaves living in conditions of terror, pain and cruelty inflicted by their fellow humans and shockingly between a quarter to half of these statistics are children.  Aidan McQuade delivered this terrifying and thought provoking statistics in an interview with Lions magazine in May 2007.    The abuse of work experience, vividly exposed by the National Union of Journalist’s recent survey, shows how the hopes of young graduates are being sabotaged. Those who completed work experience; 82 percent received no payment for their work. Health and safety measures are never been practices in the third world, where labourers wages are fixed by the employer, millions of people are living under the poverty line are victims of exploitation. The rises in commodities hardly ever match their wages. This is demonstrated by the small girls who sow day in day out without wearing a thimble, therefore prick and harm their fingers. This work is then purchased by the rich women who sell them at extortionate prices in five star hotels, separating the margins between the rich and poor even more.  

Ulla’s roundup: Friday-Saturday

April 16, 2007

On Friday morning, the ADM started. In the main hall we have got 2×13 rows with a path in the middle and 13 seats on each sides. Seating is arranged via branches- on the podium the chair with about four or five people from the National Executive Council.

Two desks on each sides with microphones – the left one is generally used to propose and agree with motions, the right one to oppose.

Speakers queue up for the desks waiting for their turn to speak. Most of the motions are in a green DinA4 booklet and the whole conference centers around going through these proposals and making decisions if to implement the suggestions.

On Friday afternoon, the topics planned are Equality, International and Media Freedom. Equality motions are mainly put in by the Black Members Council, the Disabled Members Council and the Equality Council and strives to eliminate discrimination and disadvantages in the workplace.

One important positive decision was made for section 30, which will in future grant more support to journalists seeking asylum in Britain. The intervention to link this motion to the new Exiled Journalist Network group failed, “because you didn’t come to the horse-trading session yesterday, and at such late stage this addition can’t really be brought up now”.


The International section is introduced by the president of the US American journalist union Linda Fowley. She stresses the happy anticipation of 20th January 2009, which is Bush’s last day in office. Also she is here to congratulate for the centenary, also in the name of the parent union, the Communications Workers Union America. She refers to the kidnapping of Alan Johnston and Daniel Pearl. “It has all too often been our own governments who target journalists”, she says before pointing out the lack of accountability regarding the killing of Terry Lloyd.

I think it was still her who stressed the need to fight for our rights and not to forget that the rights which are current, have been fought for over centuries. She states: “We have to fight for the freedom of the press” and refers to the “Stand up for Journalism” Day in autumn. She refers that we also would have to fight against the media conglomerate ownership, such as outsourcing in Reuters and Newsquest, the digital divide and the Speed-Net, and for basic trade union rights for people.

In this section delegates discuss solidarity statements which condem the killings of journalists in hotspots such as Ethiopia, imprisonment in Guatanamo Bay, oppression of trade union members in Zimbabwe, repression of freedom of expression in Turkey, exploitation of journalists in Pakistan and similar.

Not quite sure how much practical difference these motions make, but it is always good to have somebody thinking of you and trying to make a difference when finding yourself in a crap position.

Slightly more controversial is Section 35 about the Yahoo! Connection which enabled the jailing and repression of a Chinese blogger.

Jemima Kiss from the New Media Council, asks the ADM to support the motion of an official Yahoo! Boycott “moved by” (sounds like a chess game) the Manchester branch.

Lots of speakers queue up to express their opinion, one official says that there were talks the since the original motion made last year, a reenforcement of the boycott would be harmful as they would not acknowledge efforts made by both sides.

Somebody else states that there would be lots more multinational internet baddies around and mentions google and g-mail as examples of an unclear privacy policy and uncertainty of what they do with the supplied user information.

There is a call to defeat the motion due to the lack of alternatives to Yahoo! Services and the practical implementation problems, another delegate asks how the union would support the members who would need Yahoo! Services for their job.

The next statement is controversially debated as it suggests the boycott of Israeli goods as a means to show solidarity with Palestine.

Some delegates have actually been instructed by their groups at home to vote against this boycott, others want the union to “step aside from international politics a little bit”, some people associate the proposal with feelings of antisemitism and anti-Israel. The vote is divided – nearly 50/50, when the votes are counted out 66 are for and 54 against a union supported boycott of Israeli goods.

Tony Benn

Tony Benn suddenly turns up as a surprise speaker, and is greeted enthusiastically and empathetically by the delegates and the general secretary. He joined Nuj in 1949 when working in the BBC, but they didn’t recognize the NUJ then, as they had their own little union then. His father was also a journalist, he said, and also joked that he would be proud to be a honorary member as he doesn’t need to pay a fee. He was then talking a little bit about why we would need a union, the change in technology, the lack of union recognition and the demand for training.

The use of new technology was always said to be a means of getting rid of people, like in Wapping, he explained, and pointed out the division alongside class, nationality, and similar.

Tony Benn stressed the need of people wanting to feel that some one appreciates them and that empowerment is most important.

He states that: “The government wants to know everything about us, but doesn’t want us to know anything about them” and then lays into the potential restrictions of the Freedom of information Act and the proposed ID card scheme.

“To discover that we are all people is one of the most important things”, he continued rebel-rousing.
Tony Benn finished off with talking a little bit about the danger of nuclear weapons.

There was not much controversy about the next motions, but they featured a bit of a rant against the privacy bill.

Section 55 debated a different process for affiliation of the NUJ to campaigns and other groups. If it would be accepted, the process would change from the balloting and references for checks and safeguards to branches being able to make affiliations of the union to campaigns autonomously.

“This could be open to all kind to abuse as sometimes only few people are at branch meetings”, was one argument versus the ability to trust the decision making process at grassroots level in branches.
Unfortunately, the fear of abuse seemed to prevail as the motion was defeated.

In the evening the 100 years of NUJ history book is launched. The access to the event is strictly limited by tickets, but for a change i am happy to have lost out as I don’t feel that well and have had a headache big enough for a herd of elephants for the whole day.

Books @ NUJ Centenary

April 14, 2007

The NUJ centenary brings three important books about journalism. The launch of “Journalists: 100 years of the NUJ” by Tim Gopsill and Greg Neale, and “A Century of the Black Journalism in Britain 1893-2003” by Lionel Morrison are landmark additions in journalism books, while Tony Harcup’s book “Ethical Journalist” is worthwhile for journalism students.

In 2004, the National Union of Journalists decided to produce a new history of the union to mark its centenary in March 2007. The authors have done marvelously well in finding and compiling the facts.

Tim Gopsill, Editor of The Journalist magazine for the last 17 years, has had a good response from the members to the book.

Tim told the NUJ Student Blog that some people have pointed out various omissions, or that “there are not enough stories about Scotland and Parish Branch”.

He referred to such comments as compliments and said it means that people have valued his book.

However, the addition of missing things to any future edition is the publisher’s decision.

Tim Gopsill looks confident to sell 300 copies during the conference, from a total of 4,250 copies at a discounted price of £10.

Century of black journalism

Another important book is Lionel Morrison’s “A Century of Black Journalism in Britain 1893-2003”.

Lionel Morrison OBE has been a campaigning journalist and media trainer for fifty years.

He remains involved in Black Members Council which he was a founder member.

The book shows how long black journalists and the black press have been a feature of the landscape of British journalism.

Lionel includes a useful timeline to give quick access to the information.

The book tells of the persistent struggle against widespread prejudice, racism and discrimination mirrored by the stereotyping and rejection in the media.

The Ethical Journalist

The third book, “The Ethical Journalist”, is written by Sheffield University teacher Tony Harcup, who as secretary of Leeds Chapel was responsible for my own presence at the NUJ ADM as a student observer.

The starting point of this engaging and innovative book is that ethical journalism is good journalism. The book also discusses journalists’ personal anecdotes alongside relevant critical studies.