Following a hearing in London on 24th July 2013, the NUJ Appeals Tribunal upheld an appeal by journalist Anthony McIntyre.
The Appeals Tribunal overturned the findings of a subcommittee of the NUJ’s Ethics Council of 25th March 2013 pursuant to a Rule 24 complaint lodged by Allison Morris and Ciaran Barnes which alleged that Mr McIntyre had breached clauses 2, 3 and 4 of the NUJ’s Code of Conduct.
The NUJ Appeals Tribunal found that Mr McIntyre had “no case to answer” and that he had not breached any part of the code as alleged.
The Appeals Tribunal overturned the 6 month suspension and formal reprimand issued by the Ethics Council.
In its decision of 25th March 2013, the Ethics Council subcommittee had found that Mr. McIntyre had breached Clause 2 of the Code of Conduct which requires that a journalist should “strive to ensure that information disseminated is honestly conveyed accurate and fair” as well as Clause 3 which requires that he “do his utmost to correct harmful inaccuracies.”
However, the Ethics Council had declined to make a finding of a breach of Clause 4, which requires a journalist to “differentiate between fact and opinion” due to the difficulty the Ethics Council experienced “in differentiating between fact and opinion in reaching a conclusion concerning the publication,” a finding which Mr. McIntyre had described on appeal as “nonsensical.”
The Appeals Tribunal decided indeed that “the matter complained of was clearly an expression of opinion” and concluded that there was no case to answer.
Mr. McIntyre welcomed the decision by the NUJ Appeals Tribunal to overturn the flawed decision-making and penalties issued by the Ethics Council.
Mr McIntyre states that after a ‘scrupulously fair hearing’ before the Appeals Tribunal he is ‘extremely happy to have been totally vindicated and to know that the baseless claims by the two Belfast journalists, Allison Morris and Ciaran Barnes, were rejected in their entirety.’
He described the decision as a major victory for freedom of expression over those who would seek to suppress it.
“The growing culture of censorship in the North is under scrutiny, and UUP leader Mike Nesbitt, alone amongst political leaders, appears to be attuned to this problem in his current attempts to introduce legislation that would push back the constraints on free expression. The Tribunal decision is important in this context because it effectively entreats journalists to oppose censorship rather than impose it.”
Mr McIntyre concluded:
“While extremely satisfied with the outcome, it is my sincere hope and expectation that those news outlets which announced the flawed Ethics Council verdict against me in March will have the professional courtesy to provide the same level of coverage to this indisputable and unalloyed vindication.”
STATEMENT OF NUJ APPEALS TRIBUNAL
For background to Allison Morris's and Ciaran Barnes's complaints against Anthony McIntyre see: NUJ Wiki Dump