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February 12, 2016

NUJ accuses Lebedevs of ‘contempt’ for journalists after closing Indy print titles following ‘closed doors’ deal

By Dominic Ponsford

The National Union of Journalists has accused the Lebedevs of "moral bankruptcy" for closing the print edition of The Independent without consultation or seeking alternative ways to secure its future.

Today, ESI Media owner Evgeny Lebedev said the print editions of The Independent and Independent on Sunday will close after the sale of the i newspaper to Johnston Press for £24m.

He said in a statement: "We will be the first of many leading newspapers to embrace a wholly digital future."

While some journalists will remain on Independent.co.uk, and some will transfer over to Johnston Press, Lebedev said there will be redundancies.

NUJ general secretary Michelle Stanistreet said: "Today’s announcement realises the worst fears of staff on The Independent and Independent on Sunday. To close these historic titles overnight after a deal clinched behind closed doors, without any consultation or attempts to engage with staff, demonstrates the contempt the company has for its workforce.

"For Evgeny Lebedev to laud  closures that will see staff lose their livelihoods as an ‘historic transition’ is an added indignity. The fact that our national newspapers can be shut down overnight with no scrutiny and no ability for their future to be secured through other means, underlines the moral bankruptcy of newspaper ownership in the UK. That needs to be urgently addressed. The NUJ will do all it can to support all members affected."

NUJ national organiser Laura Davison said: "The closure of the Independent titles is a massive blow to the industry. Experienced staff who have been committed to the idea and ideals of the titles, in some cases for decades, are facing losing their jobs in shocking circumstances.

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"The public has been robbed of titles whose loss leaves press plurality, opinion and ownership narrowed and diminished. The way staff have had to learn about what's happening through the pages of other papers is simply appalling. We are calling on the company to enter into urgent talks with the NUJ, to meet their legal obligations and to treat their staff with humanity."

The NUJ has sent a letter to Steve Auckland, chief executive of the Independent and Evening Standard, demanding talks. The NUJ chapel will be meeting on Monday.

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