The NUJ today welcomed the finding of the London Central Employment Tribunal, which determined that the presenting work of Samira Ahmed on BBC’s Newswatch programme was equal to that of Jeremy Vine on Points of View.  

Read about the landmark outcome on the NUJ website.

 

In the December-January issue of The Journalist Tony Sheldon reports on the growing controversy over the character Zwarte Piet.

Read it here!

 

Photo: Jens Anders Wejsmark Sorensen

In the NUJ, we have a long tradition of fighting racism, promoting equality, and striving to avoid bias in our reporting. Our union’s code of conduct states we should not produce material, “likely to lead to hatred or discrimination” on the grounds of, among other things, “a person’s race, colour or creed”.

It is worth reminding ourselves of these principles when faced with the tricky professional task of reporting fairly on the annual Dutch and Belgian festivities based around Sinterklaas. These are problematic for many as they include Sint’s helper, “Zwarte Piet” who is often portrayed by men and women in black face.

While many still view this as an innocent part of popular folklore, it is being increasingly seen as a racist caricature of black people, out of tune with modern values.

We, in the media, are privileged to report this shift in public attitudes. But it is a challenge too, with feelings running so high. Some media reports appear to give the traditionalists the benefit of the doubt, while unfairly labelling those opposing Zwarte Piet as extremists. As journalists, we should report the facts accurately, respecting fair views honestly held, and reasonably put, while not encouraging discrimination on the grounds of race or colour.

The Netherlands and Belgium, like many Western European countries, are slowly changing and we, NUJ journalists, should adhere to our Code of Conduct when reporting that change.

Netherlands NUJ branch chair, Tony Sheldon

See also the motion from the National Executive Council

The National Union of Journalists has a long tradition of fighting racism, promoting equality, and striving to avoid bias in their reporting.

Tony Sheldon, NUJ Netherlands branch chair has written a comment piece on the issue - you can read it on the NUJ website

Campaigning by the Netherlands and Brussels branches to achieve reporting on the Zwarte Piet issue which is fair, accurate, and does not discriminate on the grounds of race or colour, has gained national support after the NUJ's National Executive Council this month supported a motion by Continental European reps Cailin Mackenzie and Tony Sheldon.

They collaborated closely with branch member Marvin Hokstam who first raised the issue, and who also sits on the union's Black Members Council.

The NEC agreed the following: "The NEC notes that the festival of Sinterklaas will soon be celebrated in the Netherlands and Belgium.

The NEC notes that the character of Zwarte Piet, who accompanies Sinterklaas, is predominantly portrayed by someone in ‘black face’, and this continues to be enjoyed by many who consider it to be an innocent tradition. 

Each year there is increased debate and controversy around Zwarte Piet, requiring journalists to cover the topic and arguments. 

The NEC reminds all those covering Zwarte Piet of the NUJ Race Reporting Guidelines which state that journalists, “should not originate material which encourages discrimination on the grounds of race or colour”.

The NEC supports journalists in Continental Europe in their efforts to encourage non-discriminatory reporting of Zwarte Piet and those trying to raise a discussion about his role in the Netherlands and Belgium in the 21st Century."

See also the branch statement on reporting Zwarte Piet

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