Journalists are being bullied by newspaper management and put under huge pressure to deliver the story at all costs, the Leveson Inquiry into press ethics has heard. Michelle Stanistreet, general secretary of the media union NUJ, gave evidence compiled from personal interviews with journalists that reveals what NUJ describes as a shocking catalogue of bullying and abuse in the newspaper industry. Those who came forward were guaranteed anonymity, after Associated Newspapers, publishers of the Daily Mail, failed in a court bid to prevent the evidence being brought to the Inquiry. Michelle Stanistreet said: 'The range of issues the journalists have raised with me include, but are not restricted to - endemic bullying, huge pressure to deliver stories, overwhelming commercial pressures which are allowed to dictate what is published and the overweening power and control of editors over their journalists and of employers over their editors.' She explained why the journalists had needed to give their evidence anonymously: 'Those who have experienced or witnessed bullying of a vicious and engrained nature have largely been too fearful to speak out in case they lost their job or were forced out. Those who have witnessed first-hand unethical behaviour or been pressured into working in a way that is unethical are frankly terrified about being identified.' The union is calling for a conscience clause for journalists, enabling them to cite the NUJ Code of Conduct as a safeguard against being forced to use unethical methods. The NUJ Parliamentary Group has consistently supported the call for a conscience clause for journalists to protect journalists and journalistic standards. John McDonnell MP, secretary of the NUJ Parliamentary Group said: 'The NUJ's evidence just shows how bad the atmosphere of bullying and intimidation has been in newsrooms. The reign of terror by certain editors left journalists vulnerable to being forced to survive by employing dubious and, at times, illegal practices. This is why journalists need the protection of a conscience clause in their contract.'
Issued: 17 February, 2012