Journalists sign open letter to NUJ in support of Mendoza

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Journalists have begun to sign an open letter just published by supporters of Kerry-Anne Mendoza, the Canary editor-in-chief whose invitation to deliver a lecture for Black History Month was cancelled by the National Union of Journalists (NUJ) over the heads of its Black Members Council BMC), ignoring the BMC’s democratically reaffirmed choice, after mostly white journalists at the Guardian/Observer objected.

The letter pulls no punches:

We the undersigned have written this letter to express our frustration and outrage at the behaviour of the National Union of Journalists’ National Executive Council (NEC) towards Kerry-Anne Mendoza, co-founder of The Canary. We also write to express our solidarity with Kerry-Anne, who the NEC de-selected from giving this year’s Claudia Jones Memorial Lecture for Black History Month. That offer, given by the NUJ’s Black Members Council (BMC), was rescinded by the NEC undemocratically and wholly without merit, as a result of a sustained smear campaign championed by some staff at the Guardian/Observer.

It is abundantly clear that staff at the Guardian/Observer, which had agreed to host the lecture before they knew who would speak, opposed Kerry-Anne giving the talk and openly sought her removal from the very beginning.

Establishmentarianism by any other name

The NEC has proven itself to be little more than a tool of middle-class liberalism, ironically subverting everything that the Black radical communist Claudia Jones stood for.

Kerry-Anne is a Black, gay, working-class woman who risked everything to co-found an independent, left-wing alternative to the mainstream corporate and establishment press. She did this with a budget of £500, which was money put in by the founders, including Kerry-Anne herself. In the greatest tradition of Claudia Jones, Kerry-Anne’s lecture will be held without the support of the NUJ’s leadership on 29 October 2018 at the Sands Films Studio in London.

The event is sold out of (free) tickets. If you would like to attend, please email nancy@thecanary.co to be added to the waiting list for any returns.

Manufacturing reasons to remove Kerry-Anne

The first attempt to remove Kerry-Anne as speaker, without cause, was rebuffed by the BMC – which affirmed Kerry-Anne as its choice. This led the NUJ’s NEC to try again and again, until they finally used the product of a smear campaign against Kerry-Anne as a justification to remove her.

Biased news on Nicaragua

The second attempt to attack Kerry-Anne and push her out of giving the talk followed the publication of a highly detailed and well researched investigative piece by award-winning journalist Max Blumenthal. Observer journalist Nick Cohen and BuzzFeed journalist Mark di Stefano erroneously blamed The Canary for the deportation of a US journalist from Nicaragua. The article in question exposed this journalist as being embedded with right-wing militias in Nicaragua that were openly calling for the violent overthrow of the government.

The claim that the deportation was down to The Canary re-publishing a later version of Max’s article was repeated by the NUJ general secretary. And despite BuzzFeed retracting that baseless conclusion, no apology was ever made to Max, Kerry-Anne or The Canary.

Poor judgement by the NUJ secretary general

Here, the NUJ general secretary showed incredibly poor judgment, as she repeated claims about a situation without confirming the facts. The Canary has published a follow-up piece by Max Blumenthal, which further confirmed that the Guardian failed to inform its readers that a key source for its reporting on Nicaragua was embedded with and openly praising rebels who promote violent ‘regime change’. The NUJ has still issued no retraction, despite being made aware of these facts.

Acceptable attacks

Instead, Kerry-Anne and The Canary have been subjected to sustained attacks online and by journalists who were not fully informed about these two investigative pieces published by The Canary.

The unacceptable face of solidarity

In solidarity with Kerry-Anne and The Canary, an already active hashtag of #boycotttheguardian started trending. Having previously failed to remove Kerry-Anne democratically via the BMC, the NEC ultimately forced another vote claiming that the ‘boycott’ violated NUJ principles.

The attacks on Kerry-Anne and The Canary both preceded and are a cause of the solidarity ‘boycott’ call. That the NEC would then use this call for solidarity to then retroactively blackball Kerry-Anne, whose speech was due to have already gone ahead on 11 October, is beyond the pale.

Manufacturing crisis to oust-Kerry-Anne

In short, attacking and smearing Kerry-Anne and The Canary is acceptable in the eyes of the NUJ’s NEC. But Kerry-Anne’s failure to openly oppose the solidarity boycott, which she had no hand in initiating, and her choice to retweet the hashtag, is apparently a violation of the NUJ’s rules. Ironically, the NEC’s complaint is that the boycott threatened the livelihoods of NUJ members. But smear campaigns also threaten the livelihoods of The Canary’s contributing journalists, many of whom are NUJ members (Kerry-Anne included).

We call on all journalists to express their solidarity with Kerry-Anne against the anti-democratic manoeuvrings of the NUJ’s NEC; and to that end we also call upon Alex Pascall OBE to refuse to speak, in solidarity with Kerry-Anne.

In solidarity

Tickets for Ms Mendoza’s alternative Claudia Jones Memorial Lecture, which will take place next Monday evening in London, went within a few hours – including a second batch after capacity was expanded.

To sign the letter, visit the Google document here.

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  1. I’m a journalist who completely supports Kerry-Anne and am going to the lecture on Monday. But this letter if genuine is preposterous and it is informative that under as headline “Journalists sign open letter …” you cannot name a single one, and nor are there any names at all on the letter attached!! What kind of journalism is that?
    Who would sign such a tendentious, violent, incoherent spluttering document? I cannot believe that a journalist wrote it.
    I would love to sign a strong but calm and reasoned statement to the same effect but not this, no sir.
    I might be wrong but it has a very familiar style; in fact it reads like a Skawkbox story. This isn’t a stunt you’ve dreamed up yourself is it?

    1. Somehow I find your claim of support for Kerry-Anne hard to believe Timgo.

    2. Dear Tim G,

      I am one of the co-authors, a researcher, freelance journalist and NUJ member.

      The form is still collecting signatures, It was only sent out a few hours ago. The names will be published in due course. That’s just how this particular form process works. On a separate point, people shouldn’t need to see other’s names to decide if they want to sign it or not. Its not a popularity contest, its a show of solidarity and frustration as to what has been going on over the past month or so.

      If you are genuinely interested it has 25 signatures (including mine) thus far, though one submission appears to be unserious so will likely be excluded from the final count.

      I’m sorry you don’t like the ‘tone’. This is not a conciliatory letter it is a letter drafted to reflect the genuine frustration and outrage that many of us, at The Canary and otherwise, feel about the behaviour of the NUJ NEC.

      Perhaps you are not fully versed in the background of this situation. When we circulate this letter around via email we also provide people with background links. If you read the Swkakboxe’s 4 pieces on this story, and you read Max Blumenthal’s two stories that are referred to, and you read Kerry-Anne’s recent article as well, perhaps that will put the ‘tone’ and wording into context.

      As far as your characterisation of the document as being “tendentious, violent, incoherent spluttering” Obviously I don’t agree with that description, but we will leave it to each individual to read the letter and make up their own mind.

      Kind regards,

      Mohamed Elmaazi (Researcher, Freelance Journalist, NUJ member)

    3. Very tempted to say “I don’t believe you …” but that wouldn’t be 100% original.

      Not enough careful and critical reading of some truly excellent journalism on the part of SB these last few days, I suspect Timgo.

      Even if there were only two journalists behind this letter, or even just one, and somebody who is making the tea –

      I would still sign this letter.

    4. ‘Not yet published’ is not the same as ‘don’t exist’. It didn’t occur to you that the signatures might reasonably be on show only when the signed version is published?

      Instead of nonsensical innuendo, why not use your commonsense a little. Or just ignore the letter and jog on. Either’s good…

    1. This is my last visit to Skwawkbox. I’m sick of my comments being censored. Lexit is a hugely important issue to me. It’s an historical millstone for the working class. But Skwawkbox shut me down.

      1. I have had comments disappear as well but don’t give up on Skwawkbox Ella, he’s trying not to offend either side. I’ve been banned from the Indy and Guardian for pro Brexit arguments, but it is vital we continue to raise our voices against the massively financed middle class rejection of Brexit.

      2. As far as I’m aware I haven’t deleted anything of yours. Moderation has to take place, but only for clearly unacceptable language or behaviour. If you add more than one link to a comment, however, WordPress will probably put the comment into moderation.

      1. I rip it off (literally) from our clueless, bourgeois arts centre cafe.

        They get 3 copies daily. A victimless crime…

  2. I’ve changed my mind about this.

    Claudia Jones was a black radical communist whilst Mendoza supports the neoliberal EU. Mendoza also endorses a second EU Referendum which is such an arrogant slap in the face to all those who voted Leave.

    I’ve had my fill of left wingers who feel entitled to ignore this historic example of working class democracy in action – because they know better.

    I’m pleased the Guardian’s stranglehold on journalism is being weakened and the Canary has its value, but I’m not a fan if I’m honest.

    1. Ella,you are not doing yourself any favours with this constant reductionist crap about the EU.It might have some validity if neoliberalism’s writ finished at the borders of the EU,but it doesn’t does it.Neoliberalism has been the dominant ideology in Western capitalism for 40 years,and its two most enthusiastic proponents have been the USA and the UK.I do hope you take my point,one has never been in the EU and the other has been a semi detached member,and is now moving out.

      1. Read these articles (linked below) then check out the news stories from yesterday about the EU’s interference in Italy’s affairs. This was unelected EU officials interfering in Italy’s internal policies.

        I won’t descend to your same level of language. Have a nice day.



      2. Who’s who of neoliberalism is beside the point, EU economics are toxic to southern states in the Eurozone and fixed budgets mean permanent supply side solutions.
        I also think that calling for a second referendum is extremely irresponsible and politically impossible. We are leaving and the only democratic way to mitigate that is to have an election before March 2019. Journalists who promote another referendum are pushing for civil unrest because they didn’t get their own way.

      3. Lundiel, it’s hardly beside the point that Reagan and Thatcher, while not its architects, enabled the neoliberal greed machine with their deregulation of the financial sector and its early apparent success caused it to be adopted across the world. The bubble was long-lived but no less of a bubble for that.

        Neoliberals still hold sway here every bit as much as they do across the EU and everywhere else.
        If the EU is incapable of change it must follow that the UK is also incapable of change – if you believe that what are you doing wasting your time here?
        Hitler’s Germany, invincible in 1940, a few years later was dust. Franco’s dictatorship lasted 35 years but died with him.
        USSR, over 70 years and gone.
        Nothing is immutable.

      4. Blog Fredds. The difference between us and Europe is that Europe has neoliberalism written into law, we can dump it with a general election, if we have the will. They would have to agree to rewrite the Maastricht treaty and much of what came after it.

      5. Lundiel, sorry for not noticing stupid word press had defaulted my last post to blog fredds – but I stand by the facts I pointed out.
        If the USSR can change so can the EU.
        It’s true that it’s no small thing for the EU to renounce neoliberalism but my other examples were considerably less likely than the EU seeing sense – and they still happened.
        The people who write laws and treaties can change them.
        The US Constitution is revered as holy writ by the Americans but is still subject to interpretation.

        Repeating time after time that it’s impossible for EU law to change makes no sense.

    2. With respect Ella, your opinion of Ms Mendoza’s political beliefs is irrelevant to this issue and there are plenty of working class people that voted to remain. She is one of them. Calling her arrogant for having a different opinion to yours is rather rich IMO.

      1. Usually if you’re working class & voted leave you’re called ignorant; stupid & racist…..that’s why there should be a 2nd referendum so that us plebs have the opportunity to put it right & no Ms Mendoza’s political beliefs are not irrelevant; they are mainstream establishment.

      2. Don’t know about irrelevant but I’m not sure the description of them is accurate.

    3. Glad you’ve changed your mind Ella – What did that other Ella sing? Welcome back. I don’t think it’s the end of the road just because Kerrry Anne Mendoza may espouse a different view to yours, or mine, on how we get there.

      Let’s remember that the late, great Claudia Jones died in ’64. Had she lived longer, she may have developed a view on the developing EU, but who’s to say how things pan out over time?

      She wouldn’t have wanted to see division amongst those whose intentions are fundamentally good. FWIW, I think she would have been pretty impressed with Ms. Mendoza’s self determination.

      BTW. I am more than aware of, the pathetic stereotype of leavers that some remainers indulge themselves with and I have always challenged this, even when I thought remain was the right thing to do. I read SB pretty carefully (though not always – please add emoticon) and as you well know, there are remainers and leavers, all making valid and valued contributions – all of them respectfully, in my view.

  3. I thought it would be worthwhile making the NUJ aware of how much public support they’re losing so I signed the letter as “ex subscriber” and “disgusted bystander,” not being an NUJ member myself.
    My signature appears to have been registered.

      1. Shhhh… don’t tell anyone but I used to subscribe to a newspaper. 🙂

  4. (Reply to John Thatcher)

    Please read these articles (linked below) then check out the news stories from yesterday about the EU’s interference in Italy’s affairs. This was unelected EU officials interfering in Italy’s internal policies.

    I won’t descend to your level of language. Have a nice day.



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