Europe: United Kingdom

National Union of Journalists: NUJ race reporting guidelines

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NUJ race reporting guidelines

The union has ratified these guidelines for all its members to follow when dealing with race relations.

The NUJ Black members' council campaigns for race equality in the union, the workplace and in the media.

The NUJ believes that:

  • Racist attitudes and the growth of far-right parties pose a threat to democracy, the rights of trade union organisations, a free media and racial equality.
  • Its members have a responsibility to stop racism being expressed in the media.
  • That media freedom must be underpinned by ethical reporting.
  • Publications and media organisations should not originate material which encourages discrimination on the grounds of race or colour, as expressed in the NUJ's rule book and code of conduct
  • Members should have the right to withhold their labour on grounds of conscience where employers are providing a platform for racist propaganda.
  • Editors must ensure that coverage of stories relating to race are placed in a balanced social and ethical context.

General guidelines:

  • Only include a person's race if relevant. Check that you have it right. Would you mention race if the person was white?
  • Avoid words that, although common in the past, are now considered offensive, e.g. half-caste and coloured. Ask people how they define themselves. Check if a person identifies as mixed-race or Black. Black may also cover people of Africa, Asian, Middle Eastern, Pacific, Caribbean and Aboriginal origin.
  • Do not assume a cultural background from a person's name – check with them or their community.
  • Strive for diversity and balance in reporting, especially on social issues. Investigate the treatment of and cover the experiences of Black people, Travellers and Gypsies.
  • Remember that Black communities are culturally diverse. Get a full and correct view from representative organisations.
  • Exercise care, balance and proportionality when covering race relations issues.
  • Do not allow letters or online comments to be published or allow phone-ins to continue that contain racist hate speech.
  • Adhere to the NUJ's code of conduct at all times. The union can help with ethical issues via the NUJ ethics council, ethics helpline and email support.

Reporting racist organisations:

  • You do not have to report on racist organisations.
  • As with any interviewees, check the claims made by representatives of such organisations and seek opposing comments.
  • Seek to broadcast or publish information exposing the myths of racist organisations. If a racist party has been elected to local government or the European Parliament, rules around party election broadcasts do not necessarily mean you have to cover them. See the Ofcom regulations (points 11 and 13) for more detail.
  • If you feel uncomfortable about covering racist parties, get advice from your union. Make sure you research the background of racist organisations and their members. For example, see Searchlight, UAF, reporting the far right and Hope not Hate.

Guidelines on Gypsies and Travellers:

  • Do not sensationalise stories involving Gypsies and Travellers, particularly around their relations with settled communities and over issues around housing and education.
  • Only use the words Gypsy or Traveller if relevant to a story and accurate.
  • Gypsy and Traveller communities are culturally diverse. Ensure your terminology is accurate. Check with a person how they want to be defined. If this is not possible consult community leaders or organisations.
  • Seek the views of the Gypsies and Travellers themselves, as well as those of others, consulting their representative organisations where possible.

Guidelines on reporting immigration and asylum:

  • Use the term "immigrant" with caution, it is still wrongly used to describe people born in Britain. Asylum seeker, refugee or EU migrant worker? Get the terminology right. Asylum seeker is a person who has left their home country as a political refugee and is seeking asylum in another country. A refugee is someone who was an asylum seeker but who has now been granted refugee status.An EU migrant worker is someone who has moved to the UK to work. Their stay in the UK may be temporary or longer term.
  • When quoting politicians or public figures, verify if their statements on immigration are factual. Ask experts who can help set the context and ensure you check details with a reputable source. Many allegations are made about asylum seekers, ensure you substantiate them, if they are unable to be verified, make this clear.
  • Don't use terms such as "bogus", "illegal" or "failed" asylum seeker. If necessary, use "refused" asylum seeker instead. A fairer term to use for someone who has outstayed their visa is "undocumented" or "irregular".
  • Don't use emotive, value-laden language, such as "floods" of immigrants. Stick to facts.