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January 14, 2016

Former UKIP PR chief Mark Croucher to be president of the Chartered Institute of Journalists

By William Turvill

UKIP's former head of communications is to take over as president of the Chartered Institute of Journalists next month.

News of the appointment of Mark Croucher, who was also head of media for the Europe of Freedom and Democracy group, has prompted the resignation of vice-chairman of the union's Professional Practices Board Cleland Thom.

Thom, who writes legal blogs for Press Gazette, said in a statement: "I believe that he is completely unsuitable for the role of president. And I know my views are shared by others within the CIOJ.

"Mark was the former head of media for the Europe of Freedom and Democracy group in the European Parliament, an alliance that included some extreme right wingers and unsavoury political characters. He also used to be UKIP’s press officer.

"I did not want to be associated with someone with Mark’s background and opinions."

Thom also said he takes exception to some of the views Croucher has expressed in blogs.

He added: "I am also unconvinced that Mark’s journalistic background qualifies him for the role of CIOJ president. I have been unable to find any evidence of his journalistic career, or training, anywhere on the internet."

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The CIOJ confirmed Croucher will begin his role in February.

The body said in a statement: "Some have viewed the appointment with interest due to the fact that Mark has previously been the director of communications for UKIP, as well as an investigative journalist. Both roles ruffle feathers in some quarters. As far as the institute is concerned, these matters have nothing to do with Mark’s position in the CIoJ.

"The Institute is a non-party political organisation dedicated to promote and protect the best interests of journalists, and journalism, no matter which area of the media industry they work in.

"If a member has any party political links then it is of no interest to the institute and, more importantly, of no consequence.  Any member that seeks to bring politics to the table through Institute matters is made to understand in no uncertain terms that it has no place in Institute business. Mark has been a member of the institute’s governing council for seven years since 2002, and was elected vice president in 2015 and is well aware of this.

"We were sorry that Cleland Thom resigned his membership of the Institute. He expressed his views about the incoming CIoJ president, and he is entitled to his opinion. There have been no other resignations in this regard.

"Members of the Institute generally take a wider view of such matters believing that their membership of the institute ties them into the good work of the organisation, and not to the presumed political beliefs of any individuals within its membership.

"Mark has stated that his intention during his term of office will be to carry on the good work that we have done in the serious matters concerning the industry, such as the attack on journalists sources through RIPA and the potential impact of the snoopers' charter, to name but two."

Croucher told Press Gazette he was "saddened" that Thom had highlighted what he described as a "non-issue".

The CIOJ claims to be the oldest professional body for journalists in the world, having been founded in 1884 as the National Association of Journalists.

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