Journalists and civil liberties groups have denounced UK government plans to replace the Official Secrets Act with an Espionage Act which would increase the potential penalty for journalists receiving leaked official documents from two to 14 years in jail.

Such documents could include for the first time sensitive information about the economy such as a report on the economic consequences of Brexit.

Jodie Ginsberg, chief executive of Index on Censorship, said: “The proposed changes are frightening and have no place in a democracy, which relies on having mechanisms to hold the powerful to account.”

Read more: Journalists who obtain leaked official material could be sent to prison under new proposals

This weekend thousands of Poles took to the streets to oppose their government's plans to restrict media access to parliament.

The delightfully Orwellian irony is that the plans being proposed by a governing party which calls itself the Law and Justice party (PiS) appear to be contrary to the Polish constitution, which grants access to parliament.

Under the proposals only five selected Polish TV stations will be allowed to record or broadcast parliamentary sessions. The new rules will also limit the number of journalists allowed in the building to a maximum of two accredited parliamentary reporters for each media outlet.

As Poland's human rights ombudsman Adam Bodnar pointed out: "The role of journalists is not only to follow computer screens, but also to seize the opportunity to talk to politicians and to do real-time checks of what's going on".

Read more: Polish government to restrict journalists’ access to parliament

 

Whistleblowers often risk ending up paying a high price for disclosing information. Yet whistleblowing can be essential in bringing to light – for example – illegal activities, corruption, activities which are contrary to public interest and threats to public health and safety. Whistleblowing can save lives, the environment and money. On 17 October a platform calling for EU-wide whistleblower protection was launched. You can sign the online petition here: Whistleblowers in the EU must be protected

English-speaking journalists working in the Netherlands are today highly likely to be self-employed. As such they are more vulnerable than ever to exploitation and changes in the labour market. Their need for protection from a trade union is therefore greater too.

Even if your work is primarily for Dutch employers you can expect support from the NUJ if you get into trouble.

Continental NUJ members working in Continental Europe no longer pay reduced subs and so must get equal treatment. As one national officer once said representation is like being pregnant you either are or not; there can be no half measures

Like everywhere issues are taken up on a case by case basis but there is no reason to expect a request for help to be rejected because you work on the Continent.

At the same time NVJ membership, even the basic rate, is a good investment to given its expertise and knowledge of Dutch employers.

But you don’t need to wait until there is a problem. There is a whole range of help that but the NUJ and the NVJ offers for working journalist every day.

NUJ Headquarters

These are your national officers for freelance members’ phone numbers and emails

National Organiser (Freelance and Wales) – John Toner
T: 0044 20 7843 3706
M: 0044 7867357866
E: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Assistant Organiser – Pamela Morton
T: 0044 20 7843 3706
M: 0044 7921 700913
E: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

For general information check out: https://www.nuj.org.uk/work/freelance/

This includes help with matters such as late payments and copyright plus ten reasons for freelancers to join the NUJ.

The NUJ’s Freelance Industrial Council

There is an industrial council for each industrial sector of the membership in England and Continental Europe. These include the Freelance Industrial Council.

Freelance Industrial Council members are elected from geographical constituencies, including continental Europe, so every freelance has a representative voice from their area. www.nuj.org.uk/contacts/industrial-council-contacts/freelance/

We have a “continental” representative, the Brussels-based journalist called Vic Wyman.

But Guy Thornton our branch vice –chair also attends FIC as a representative of disabled members. Could ask him to take up issues or mention them directly to Vic . To contact a member of the freelance industrial council, please email:This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

The FIC produces a very useful and comprehensive Fact Pack covering issues such as professional matters, business matter, well-being, subscriptions, copyright and e-communication: https://www.nuj.org.uk/work/freelance/freelance-fact-pack/

Freelance Directory

You can advertise yourself on the NUJ’s Freelance Directory. Here is the URL for the Freelance Directory where you can place your details: http://www.freelancedirectory.org/

Rates of Pay

If you want information on current rates of pay being offered in the UK which should be comparable with Dutch rates who can try the London Freelance Branch. It is one of the largest freelance branches. Its website and branch newsletter which is delivered with comes with the Journalist is well worth checking out. It includes a Rate for the Job section. Its website address is: http://media.gn.apc.org/lfb/index.html

It also offers specifically a Freelance Fees Guide: www.londonfreelance.org/feesguide/index.php?language=en&country=UK&section=Welcome

The NUJ’s guide for photographic rates can be found at: https://www.nuj.org.uk/documents/nuj-guide-charging-digital-imaging-editorial-photography/

Search Engines

Freelancers without the backing of a large media organisation can today benefit enormously from online searches. One example is the Google News Lab where the NUJ has combined with Google to help journalist use Google as an investigative tools. The news labs are free. One is currently in the pipeline to be held in Paris others have been held in London, Manchester, Cardiff and Belfast. Check out them out at the NUJ’s website including a video: https://www.nuj.org.uk/news/how-to-use-google-tools-as-a-journalist/

NVJ

For those who are also members of the NVJ its freelance section is very active is currently conducting a survey of freelancers focused on rates of pay. Its magazine Villa Media has articles on freelancing such as in April on changes in the VAR law.

Obviously if you are working primarily for Dutch employers then the support you can call upon as a freelancer is much better. This may be worth the investment even in the basic NVJ membership.

The “Freelance Secretary”at the NVJ is Rosa Garcia Lopez, 0614499619, This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. @rosagarcialopez

Reporters, photographers and in particular those who work freelance may be asked for proof that they are a genuine working journalist when covering events such as political demonstrations, government press conferences, court reporting and international events. Here is how your trade union can help plus some tips drawn from branch members’ experiences reporting in the Netherlands over 20 years.

The NUJ Press Card

Available free to all staff, freelance and temporary members just apply on-line at https://www.nuj.org.uk/join/presscards/. It is valid for two years and recognised by a host of official bodies such as the police and the army. Though obviously intended for use mainly in the UK and the Republic of Ireland, our experience is that it is recognised in the Netherlands, Belgium and France too.


When applying one has to provide proof of recent work and evidence that at least half of your income is derived from journalism. Temporary members can only receive a card for one year.  There is also a student press card for people studying journalism or working for a student newspaper. Associate or retired members are not eligible.

NUJ Membership Card

This is issued free to all members for life. If you have not got one then contact head office. It has your name, signature, NUJ number and date of issue with phone numbers and web pages for NUJ offices on the back. Though this cannot be officially used for press accreditation it can come in useful in practice to allay any doubts that you are a journalist.

International Federation of Journalists (IFJ)

If you are regularly working in countries other than the UK and Ireland then the NUJ recommends you apply for an IFJ card. This can only be done through your NUJ membership at https://www.nuj.org.uk/forms/application-for-an-nuj-international-press-card/ Do not apply or send money through any other route as a scam was recently been operating. It costs £100 for two years and you will need proof of recent work.

Obviously an IFJ card is the gold standard allowing you to work in any country and particularly in conflict zones. However, if you would rather save the money then the NUJ card is generally recognised in Western Europe.

Nederlands Vereniging van Journalisten (NVJ) press card

For those branch members who are also members of the NVJ you can also apply for an NVJ card. It is free for staff (werknemer) or freelance (freelancer) membership and costs €49.95 for people with the basic (basis) membership. All applications are judged on supplying evidence of recent work. The NVJ card is also recognised abroad in the US and in conflict zones. See https://www.nvj.nl/onze-diensten/perskaarten

And so…

Trade unions do not give out press cards lightly as they in turn have to negotiate with the different organisations who are being expected to recognise them. It is therefore important only bone fide journalists have them.

That said practice can be very different. Trying to argue your rights with a security heavy or jobsworth particularly if there is any perceived threat to public order may be a waste of precious time. An NUJ press can’t do any harm but often a passport, driving licence or other proof of identity helps too.
 
In a less challenging environment, especially where organisations actually want journalists to attend rather than keep them away, then simply a membership card plus any recent examples of work, printed out emails or commissioning letters will do the trick. It is also useful for freelancers if the people commissioning you contact the organisers of an event so you are on a press list.  Or you yourself can contact organisers in advance tell them you are coming and get a named contact and have a chat.

In all circumstances remain calm, firm, persistent but polite, no matter how justified you may be in your right to attend an event. Charm and good humour will get you further than veiled threats and aggression.

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