This was a busy day for NUJ activity. First, union members at Broadcasting House in Belfast (and at BBC Radio Foyle in Derry) joined journalist colleagues around the UK in walking out at midday to hold a twelve hours strike.
The first Radio Ulster programme affected was Talkback. The presenter and long-standing member Wendy Austin was among those joining the line outside the main entrance. Inside, members of management kept some output on the air including radio news bulletins. The NUJ action along with the broadcasting union BECTU is over job cuts, compulsory redundancies, harassment and bullying within the Corporation.
At the meeting of Belfast and District Branch of the NUJ, members expressed their solidarity with their colleagues on strike. Later some of the branch members including myself joined the chapel members on the picket line. It was an interesting branch meeting, during which we endorsed a statement by the union’s National Executive Council at its meeting last Friday that criticised the First Minister Peter Robinson:-
“The National Executive Council of the NUJ has called on First Minister Peter Robinson to withdraw his remarks for the people of Northern Ireland to “stop reading the Irish News. The NEC considers the First Minister’s controversial remarks ill-considered and demands that he withdraws the boycott of the newspaper immediately. The Irish News and its journalists have the right to pursue legitimate questioning in the public interest and the NUJ will defend its members’ rights to do so.”
The Branch also heard from Ridwaan Haji, a Somali journalist and NUJ member based in London, about the serious situation facing journalists in the Horn of Africa. He told us that eighteen journalists had been killed there last year and so far this year three had died, almost all of them in the capital, Mogadishu. Last Sunday a female radio journalist 21 year-old Rahma Abdulkadir was shot dead near her house by three young men carrying pistols. The Guardian reports that her main focus was human rights in Somalia, particularly womens’ rights. The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) has condemned the killing.
Tonight the UNESCO Director General Irina Bokova denounced the murder and called for an investigation into the crime. Members of the media killed during conflict will be remembered during the IFJ Congress in Dublin later this year and it is hoped that the Branch will have a stand at the conference hall in Dublin Castle on June 6th. Preparations are also continuing for a one-day safety conference for journalists and media workers in Northern Ireland to be held before July.