Monday, 23 July 2012

British Journalist Blacklisted by Consulting Association

THE National Union of Journalists has said it is very concerned after a former freelance photojournalist discovered she had a secret blacklist file opened on her.  Molly Cooper, who was on the NUJ national executive council, had the file opened on her by the Consulting Association, managed by Ian Kerr, in 1999.

The association was funded by the construction industry to maintain details on union activists.  It was shut down in 2009 after a raid by the Office of the Information Commissioner. A card index of more than 3,200 names was discovered and so far the majority of those found to be on it are building workers. Many suffered decades of intermittent work because of industry blacklisting.

However, it has become clear that the files extended much further. 
Professor Charles Wolfson, an expert on the oil industry and the former MSP Tommy Sheridan both had files opened on them.  Now Cooper has found her own short entry. It only covers a page, but has personal information and clippings from assignments she carried out for trade journals covering building disputes.
Cooper said she was shocked when you discovered she had a file – even though it was only a small one.  'As a photographer you are just there to cover stories so I cannot understand why they should open a file on you,' she said.

Cooper was made aware of the file following documents released as part of an employment tribunal by a blacklisted construction worker, Dave Smith.  She said that she was never aware of losing any work because of the file and now works in academia in London.

Michelle Stanistreet, NUJ general secretary, said: 'The union is very concerned that NUJ members carrying out their legitimate work as journalists have been targeted by blacklisting companies.  People targeted because of their journalistic work or trade union activity is illegal and deplorable.  The NUJ totally condemns blacklisting and the union will take action in support of journalists who fear their personal details were unlawfully recorded.'

Steve Acheson, from the Blacklist Support Group, said:
'The news about Molly Cooper is quite breathtaking.  A respected freelance journalist, elected to the NEC of the NUJ had a secret file about her opened up and was spied upon over many years just for doing her job. What’s going on?If this was happening in Syria or Russia, the story would be all over the BBC News with politicians shouting about freedom of the press. But because it is big business spying on trade union activists, there is a deafening silence.  The drip, drip, drip of news that the Consulting Association did not just blacklist trade union members in the construction industry but also academics, elected politicians and now journalists makes me worry what else will be discovered.  Evidence has already come out that points to police collusion. Where will this conspiracy end? We need a full public inquiry to get to the bottom of it.'

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