The Black Membership Council (BMC) of the National Union of Journalists (NUJ) voted to ask Kerry-Anne Mendoza, the co-founder of The Canary, to give this year’s Claudia Jones Memorial Lecture for Black History Month. Claudia Jones was a radical, black communist journalist. Kerry-Anne was due to give the lecture on 11 October. But following the events detailed below, the National Executive Council (NEC) of the NUJ ultimately reversed the decision of the BMC.
Journalist Mohamed Elmaazi and The Canary‘s director of communications Nancy Mendoza drafted the following letter and circulated it to express both outrage with the behaviour of the NUJ NEC and solidarity with Kerry-Anne. It has collected 76 signatures at the time of publication but is open to collecting more.
A letter of solidarity circulated on 25 October 2018
We the undersigned have written this letter to express our frustration and outrage at the behaviour of the National Union of Journalists’ National Executive Council (NEC) towards Kerry-Anne Mendoza, co-founder of The Canary. We also write to express our solidarity with Kerry-Anne, who the NEC de-selected from giving this year’s Claudia Jones Memorial Lecture for Black History Month. That offer, given by the NUJ’s Black Members Council (BMC), was rescinded by the NEC undemocratically and wholly without merit, as a result of a sustained smear campaign championed by some staff at the Guardian/Observer.
It is abundantly clear that staff at the Guardian/Observer, which had agreed to host the lecture before they knew who would speak, opposed Kerry-Anne giving the talk and openly sought her removal from the very beginning.
Establishmentarianism by any other name
The NEC has proven itself to be little more than a tool of middle-class liberalism, ironically subverting everything that the Black radical communist Claudia Jones stood for.
Kerry-Anne is a Black, gay, working-class woman who risked everything to co-found an independent, left-wing alternative to the mainstream corporate and establishment press. She did this with a budget of £500, which was money put in by the founders, including Kerry-Anne herself. In the greatest tradition of Claudia Jones, Kerry-Anne’s lecture will be held without the support of the NUJ’s leadership on 29 October 2018 at the Sands Films Studio in London.
Manufacturing reasons to remove Kerry-Anne
The first attempt to remove Kerry-Anne as speaker, without cause, was rebuffed by the BMC – which affirmed Kerry-Anne as its choice. This led the NUJ’s NEC to try again and again, until they finally used the product of a smear campaign against Kerry-Anne as a justification to remove her.
Biased news on Nicaragua
The second attempt to attack Kerry-Anne and push her out of giving the talk followed the publication of a highly detailed and well researched investigative piece by award-winning journalist Max Blumenthal. Observer journalist Nick Cohen and BuzzFeed journalist Mark Di Stefano erroneously blamed The Canary for the deportation of a US journalist from Nicaragua. The article in question exposed this journalist as being embedded with right-wing militias in Nicaragua that were openly calling for the violent overthrow of the government.
The claim that the deportation was down to The Canary re-publishing a later version of Max’s article was repeated by the NUJ general secretary. And despite BuzzFeed retracting that baseless conclusion, no apology was ever made to Max, Kerry-Anne or The Canary.
Poor judgement by the NUJ secretary general
Here, the NUJ general secretary showed incredibly poor judgment, as she repeated claims about a situation without confirming the facts. The Canary has published a follow-up piece by Max Blumenthal, which further confirmed that the Guardian failed to inform its readers that a key source for its reporting on Nicaragua was embedded with and openly praising rebels who promote violent ‘regime change’. The NUJ has still issued no retraction, despite being made aware of these facts.
Instead, Kerry-Anne and The Canary have been subjected to sustained attacks online and by journalists who were not fully informed about these two investigative pieces published by The Canary.
The unacceptable face of solidarity
In solidarity with Kerry-Anne and The Canary, an already active hashtag of #boycotttheguardian started trending. Having previously failed to remove Kerry-Anne democratically via the BMC, the NEC ultimately forced another vote claiming that the ‘boycott’ violated NUJ principles.
The attacks on Kerry-Anne and The Canary both preceded and are a cause of the solidarity ‘boycott’ call. That the NEC would then use this call for solidarity to then retroactively blackball Kerry-Anne, whose speech was due to have already gone ahead on 11 October, is beyond the pale.
Manufacturing crisis to oust-Kerry-Anne
In short, attacking and smearing Kerry-Anne and The Canary is acceptable in the eyes of the NUJ’s NEC. But Kerry-Anne’s failure to openly oppose the solidarity boycott, which she had no hand in initiating, and her choice to retweet the hashtag, is apparently a violation of the NUJ’s rules. Ironically, the NEC’s complaint is that the boycott threatened the livelihoods of NUJ members. But smear campaigns also threaten the livelihoods of The Canary’s contributing journalists, many of whom are NUJ members (Kerry-Anne included).
We call on all journalists to express their solidarity with Kerry-Anne against the anti-democratic manoeuvrings of the NUJ’s NEC; and to that end we also call upon Alex Pascall OBE to refuse to speak, in solidarity with Kerry-Anne.
- Sue Abbot
- Nasir Ali
- Zulfqar Ali, Freelance Journalist, NUJ member
- James Aitchison, Freelance/The Canary, NUJ member
- Kevin Atkins, Retired, Life member
- Samantha Asumadu, Co-founder of Media Diversified
- Emily Apple, Editor and Freelance Journalist/The Canary, NUJ member
- Sue Barron
- Cecily Blyther, University College Union
- Joanne Brannon
- Wilfredo E Cespedes
- Tom Coburg, Freelance writer/Researcher/The Canary
- Carol Cody, UCU NW Women’s Equality Rep
- Michael Cooke, Freelance Journalist, NUJ member
- David Cronin, Freelance Journalist, NUJ member
- Ian Crosson
- Mark Davies
- Adam DC, NUJ London Magazines Branch Officer
- Mohamed Elmaazi, Freelance Journalist/The Canary, Open Democracy, Real News Network, NUJ member
- Lizzie Fletcher, NUJ member,
- Sandra Glynn
- James Gosling Retired, Retired NUJ member
- David Graeber, Professor of Anthropology, London School of Economics
- Ruth Mary Griffiths
- Fran Hanlon
- Sarah Hayes, Freelance Journalist, NUJ member
- Julie Hearn
- Peter Hedges
- Yvonne Holden
- David Horton
- Julian Jackson, Freelance, NUJ member
- Maria Joannou
- Ed Jones, Freelance/Open Democracy, Former NUJ member
- Vicky Jones
- Peader Kearney, Freelance Journalist/The Canary, NUJ member
- Jamie Kelsey-Fry, Contributing Editor New Internationalist
- Tracy Keeling, Freelance Journalist and Editor/The Canary, NUJ member
- Robert Knowles
- Frea Lockley, The Canary, NUJ member
- Peta Lunberg, NUJ Member
- James Mason, Planet Golf Review, PGR magazine Golf Monthly, NUJ member
- Marian Mayer, Co-Chair Bournemouth Univerisity University College Union, Chair Soth Region University College Union
- Michael McCarthy, Citizen activist
- John McEvoy, Freelance Journalist/The Canary
- Anthony McIntyre, Editor of the Journal of the Old Drogheda Society, NUJ member
- Tommy McKearney, Freelance Journalist
- Neil McKenna
- Jim McSporran
- Jo McNeill, President/University of Liverpool University College Union and NEC
- David McNiven, Disgusted Bystander
- Nancy Mendoza, Freelance Journalist/The Canary, NUJ member
- Glyn Mills
- Carlo Mirelli, University College Union
- G R Morford
- Jim McSporran
- Fiona Onasanya, NUJ member
- Paul Osman, Guardian reader (on/off) for40 years)
- Richard Peirce, Freelance/Star and Crescent Hyperlocal
- Stever Walker, SKWAKBOX, NUJ member,
- Chris Williamson, Labour MP for Derby North
- Stephen Wilkinson, Editor International Journal of Cuban Studies, NUJ member
- Asa Winstanley, The Electronic Intifada, NUJ member
- Robin Wiseman, Freelance Journalist, NUJ member
- James Wright, The Canary, NUJ member
- Ruth Parry
- Chris Preston, Freelance Journalist, Trade Unionist
- Michael Razzell
- Julia Roberts, University College Union
- John Shafthauer, The Canary, NUJ member
- John Sheehy, Concerned Citizen
- Peter Stefanovic, Freelance Journalist and Lawyer
- Roger Stokes
- Rebecca Sumner, Freelance/The Canary, NUJ member
- Ed Sykes, Global Editor and Sub-Editor/The Canary, NUJ member
- Alexander Tiffin, Freelance, NUJ member
- Afroze Zaidi-Jivraj
** UPDATE Kerry-Anne Mendoza gave the inaugural address of the Alternative Claudia Jones Memorial Lecture on 29 October 2018 at the Sands Films Studio in London.
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Featured image via John Ranson for The Canary
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