Code review to consider 'conscience clause'

Journalists who claim they are being forced to write “anti-gypsy articles” are to have their concerns investigated by the committee that draws up the Editors’ Code of Practice.

The Express Newspapers NUJ chapel passed a resolution last month expressing concern about articles referring to possible Roma immigration when the European Union gains 10 new states on 1 May.

The chapel wrote to the Press Complaints Commission “reminding it of the need to protect journalists who are unwilling to write racist articles”.

Responding to the letter, PCC acting director Tim Toulmin said: “We found what you had to say interesting, although as you know your remarks relate to matters that are currently outside the commission’s jurisdiction.”

However, he said he had passed the letter to the PCC code committee, adding: “The commission will be able to consider your suggestion during its forthcoming review of the code.”

A “conscience clause” to protect journalists from assignments they consider unethical was a recommendation of the Commons Media Select Committee report in August 2003.

The Gypsy Council and the International Romani Union issued a joint statement this week expressing concern about tabloid coverage of potential Roma migration: “We acknowledge the courage and integrity of journalists at the Express who have voiced their disapproval at their own editors and management and called for support from the PCC.”

The Daily Express has also been criticised by 17 MPs who signed an early day motion. It said: “This House… deplores attempts to incite racial hatred against one of the poorest and most marginalised communities in Europe”.

The Express declined to comm

By Dominic Ponsford

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