Last night the SKWAWKBOX broke exclusive news of the National Union of Journalists’ remarkable decision to try to force its Black Members Council (BMC) to amend a motion the BMC had just passed unanimously.
The NUJ’s national executive committee told the BMC it had to impose additional strictures on Canary editor-in-chief Kerry-Anne Mendoza – which the BMC had no wish to impose – before she was allowed to fulfil the BMC’s invitation to deliver the Claudia Jones Memorial Lecture for Black History Month..
It was a shocking move that was described as an attempt by a council member as an attempt to subvert its democracy for the NUJ’s own purposes – and as an attempt to force Mendoza into a ‘humiliating climb-down’ or to cancel her acceptance of the offer to deliver the lecture.
Today, the NUJ has sent two equally shocking emails to Mendoza and to the Canary. The first attempts to cast its decision to bar Mendoza as her choice – and the second confirms ‘her’ decision as a fait accompli:
It’s not us, it’s you
The email, from the NUJ’s assistant general secretary to Mendoza, extends over several pages and includes a copy of the BMC’s motion – but the key part is shown below:
I interpret that ongoing support as meaning that you are unwilling to accept the terms of the NEC motion, as noted by BMC.
But the BMC motion does not set ‘terms’ that Mendoza must accept before she can deliver the lecture.
Instead, it says it will bring the NEC’s wishes ‘to her attention’ but simply states:
The BMC asks if she would do a speech based on her publication and the importance of online outlets like hers, in consultation with the BMC chair, for the lecture to take place on 30th October in London.
No conditions, no strictures.
In spite of this, the letter goes on to state that by failing to accept the terms the BMC did not agree to impose, Mendoza will be ‘choosing not to be available‘ for the lecture and she will be replaced by an alternate.
The follow-up email was also from the assistant general secretary – and sent to the Canary’s director of communications:
But the BMC’s motion did not mention any conditions – nor Alex Pascall. Dooley had even quoted it in full in his letter to Kerry-Anne Mendoza:
No mention of conditions – just information and a question. No mention of Alex Pascall.
The NUJ has now presented Mendoza, her publication and the NUJ’s own black members with a fait accompli in which it presents its decision to reverse Mendoza’s invitation as her own choice, simply because she will not renounce calls – which she did not initiate – for a boycott of the Guardian.
In doing so, it has bypassed the democratic decision of the Black Members Council to apply conditions to Mendoza’s participation that it does not appear to have applied to its mainstream members.
As well as the clear democratic issues, the behaviour of the NUJ raises another obvious question: if new left media’s criticism of mainstream publications is such a hard red line, why are mainstream NUJ members able to attack the credibility and livelihood of NUJ members who write for the new left media (NLM) – as any number of ‘MSM’ journalists do with monotonous regularity and as Cohen and Buzzfeed did in this instance to Mendoza and the Canary – with apparent impunity?
The SKWAWKBOX wrote to NUJ assistant general secretary Séamus Dooley, the author of the two letters:
I understand you’ve taken Kerry-Anne Mendoza’s continued support for the ‘boycott the Guardian’ campaign as a de facto decision on her part not to deliver the Claudia Jones memorial lecture, because the boycott “threatens the livelihood of NUJ members and freelances at the Guardian“.
Please confirm by return when the NUJ has warned or censured members working for a mainstream publication for their attacks on the credibility – and therefore livelihood – of NUJ members working for the Canary and other ‘new left media’ publications.
Mr Dooley did reply – but did not respond to the specific point asked. He said:
I am happy to confirm that the NUJ has never invited as a guest speaker at the Claudia Jones lecture or any other event any person whose actions might threaten the livelihood or working conditions of members, nor are we obliged to do so.
We make no distinction between media platforms and our Membership Responsibilities apply to all members.
Of course, if ‘responsibilities apply to all members’, it merely highlights the question of why MSM NUJ members seem free to attack NLM NUJ members without warning, censure or any kind of consequence. The SKWAWKBOX asked again for a substantive response, but Dooley’s response indicated that he felt his first answer had been adequate and that he would not be making any further comment before publication.
A BMC member told the SKWAWKBOX:
This is a clear attempt to bypass black members. The BMC made a unanimous democratic decision and Kerry-Anne Mendoza should be giving the Claudia Jones memorial lecture on the 30th as we decided. We will not be letting this sidelining of her and our democratic decision simply proceed unchallenged.
The BMC held an emergency meeting this evening. Details will follow shortly.
Kerry-Anne Mendoza’s treatment by the NUJ has been atrocious and ought to be a huge scandal.
But the debacle raises other major issues.
The apparent ease with which the union chose to bypass, amend and supplement the democratic decision of the BMC will and must be of grave concern to the NUJ’s black and minority members.
The longstanding impunity of Guardian/Observer and other mainstream journalists to attack the reputations and livelihood of NUJ members in the alternative media makes a mockery of the NUJ’s decision to marginalise Mendoza because of a ‘boycott the Guardian’ social media campaign that she did not even initiate.
And those same facts suggest that the arguably racist and certainly elitist objections of Guardian journalists to Mendoza’s invitation to deliver the Claudia Jones lecture were taken far more seriously than they ought to have been by a union that should have recognised the need to defend all its members.
The SKWAWKBOX needs your support. This blog is provided free of charge but depends on the generosity of its readers to be viable. If you can afford to, please click here to arrange a one-off or modest monthly donation via PayPal. Thanks for your solidarity so this blog can keep bringing you information the Establishment would prefer you not to know about.
If you wish to reblog this post for non-commercial use, you are welcome to do so – see here for more.