The National Union of Journalists has ratified guidelines for all its members to follow when dealing with race relations subjects.
Statement on race reporting
1. The NUJ believes that the development of racist attitudes and the growth of fascist parties pose a threat to democracy, the rights of trade union organisations, a free press and the development of social harmony and well-being.
2. The NUJ believes that its members cannot avoid a measure of responsibility in fighting the evil of racism as expressed through the mass media.
3. The NUJ reaffirms its total opposition to censorship but equally reaffirms its belief that press freedom must be conditioned by responsibility and an acknowledgement by all media workers of the need not to allow press freedom to be abused to slander a section of the community or to promote the evil of racism.
4. The NUJ believes the methods and lies of the racists should be publicly and vigorously exposed.
5. The NUJ believes that newspapers and magazines should not originate material which encourages discrimination on grounds of race or colour, as expressed in the NUJ’s rule book and code of conduct.
6. The NUJ recognises the right of members to withhold their labour on grounds of conscience where employers are providing a platform for racist propaganda.
7. The NUJ believes that editors should ensure that coverage of race stories should be placed in a balanced context.
8. The NUJ will continue to monitor the development of media coverage in this area and give support to members seeking to enforce the above aims.
Only mention someone’s race if it is strictly relevant. Check to make sure you have it right. Would you mention race if the person was white?
Do not sensationalise race relations issues; it harms black people and it could harm you.
Think carefully about the words you use. Words which were once in common usage are now considered offensive, e.g. half-caste and coloured. Use mixed-race and black instead. Black can cover people of Arab, Asian, Chinese and African origin. Ask people how they define themselves.
Immigrant is often used as a term of abuse. Do not use it unless the person really is an immigrant. Most black people in Britain were born here and most immigrants are white.
Do not make assumptions about a person’s cultural background – whether it is their name or religious detail. Ask them or where it is not possible check with the local race equality council.
Investigate the treatment of black people in education, health, employment and housing. Do not forget travellers and gypsies. Cover their lives and concerns. Seek the views of their representatives.
Remember that black communities are culturally diverse. Get a full and correct view from representative organisations.
Press for equal opportunities for employment for black staff.
Be wary of disinformation. Just because a source is traditional does not mean it is accurate.
Reporting racist organisations
When interviewing representatives of racist organisations or reporting meetings or statements or claims, journalists should carefully check all reports for accuracy and seek rebutting or opposing comments. The anti-social nature of such views should be exposed.
Do not sensationalise by reports, photographs,. film or presentation the activities of racist organisations.
Seek to publish or broadcast material exposing the myths and lies of racist organisations and their anti-social behaviour.
Do not allow the letters column or ‘phone-in’ programmes to be used to spread racial hatred in whatever guise.
Guidelines on travellers
Only mention the word gypsy or traveller if strictly relevant and accurate.
Give balanced reports, seeking travellers’ views as well as those of others, consulting the local travellers where possible.
Resist the temptation to sensationalise issues involving travellers, especially in their relations with settled communities over issues such as housing and settlement programmes and schooling.
Try to give wide coverage to travellers’ lives and the problems they face.
Strive to promote the realisation that the travellers’ community is comprised of full citizens of Great Britain and Ireland whose civil rights are seldom adequately vindicated, who often suffer much hurt and damage through misuse by the media and who have a right to have their special contributions to Irish and British life, especially in music and craft work and other cultural activities, properly acknowledged and reported.