Chairs’ Reports 2004

If hard work is good for the mind and body then it must surely follow that seeing positive results flow from it is equally good for the soul.

The Branch has been involved in a lot of activity this year and Simon will be reporting on international matters below. Here I would like to spend a moment on one or two of the highlights on the Home Front.

The detail of these will be covered in the reports from the various Branch Officers, but there is one who will not be producing a report for the simple reason that his efforts are published for us to see every month in our Branch organ, the Freelance.

I speak of course of its Editor, Mike Holderness, who consistently delivers a publication to the highest standards packed full of useful, up-to-the-minute information about Branch and workplace matters.

The contents of the Freelance and a whole lot more besides is also available on the LFB website which is fast becoming a routine port of call for commissioning editors seeking guidance on the going Rate For The Job.

It is worth noting that this December 36,000 visits were made to our site, and on one particular day mid-month, 1400 people looked at 4500 pages. That has to be seen as a success.

Taking advantage of Mike's Professorial talents - he makes it all work - several online discussion groups have been formed, and these have also been very highly spoken of by members. The now well-established UKsubs (good name for a 70s punk band there, I think) continues its growth under the guiding hand of Tom Davies.

This year two new groups were formed.

Music journalists are often said to be a breed apart, and NBT - The Next Big Thing - is a forum set up and moderated by Branch Negotiations Officer Angus Batey, where they swap ideas, share payment possibilities and help when problems such as copyright arise. The group numbers around l00 and as you would imagine, they provide each other with plenty of witty dialogue while debating the issues of their chosen field.

Branch and Freelance Industrial Council (FIC) member Jenny Vaughan runs a similar group called NibWeb - for the non-fiction writers among us. A smaller group of around 30, they are a very friendly bunch openly sharing advice and comment with each other. There is talk of putting together a Charter for NFWs, and an encouragingly strong relationship has been forged with members of the Society Of Authors who belong to the group.

In the tall glass towers of the glossies, the Q/Mojo group has been hard at work achieving a good result gaining a licensing agreement for re-use of work to other in-house publications. And as they prepare to enter the next round of pay "non-negations" (the publications do not formally recognise the union), their good influence looks to be spreading with the possibility of other magazines coming on board for talks too.

We are fortunate to have strong representation on FIC, which, under the chairmanship of Branch member Tim Dawson, continues to provide a powerful stimulus for freelance activity not just in London but nationwide.

A special mention is due too to John Toner, Pamela Morton and Sylvia Pedder in the Freelance Office at HQ. They may be only a small team, but their input has been huge, with John being particularly helpful in the progresses at Q/Mojo and absolutely pivotal in developments at the BBC.

On a very local level the attendance at Branch meetings has been growing, encouraged no doubt by the range and quality of speakers that address our meetings on work matters. A definite high spot was Humphrey Evans and his role-play section at the November gathering. Such was the response in front of a full house that we may consider videoing such events in the future.

This report can only represent a snapshot of the year's activity, but I hope it has lifted our collective spirits a little.

The work continues and I leave you with the thought that all this effort has been put in by members for members.

If you are encouraged by it and want to become more involved please come forward...

I wish you all a Happy, Prosperous and Safe 2005.

Dave has reminded you of the branch's incredibly wide range of activities over the past year. I want to highlight just one aspect - our campaigns on international issues affecting journalists.

In June, the Iraqi freelance cameraman Junis Kuthair, who US forces detained for nine months without charge in Abu Ghraib prison, was released after a campaign in which the branch played a leading part.

We reacted with similar energy when one of our own members, Eva Jasciewicz, was detained in Israel in September. This was an important case, not least because the Israeli government justified its action on the grounds that Eva openly identifies herself as a political campaigner as well as a journalist. Neither the branch, nor the NUJ, nor the IFJ, let that one go. Thankfully Eva was released after a few days.

We also heard a report over the summer from Jake Ecclestone about the release of the Israeli whistle-blower Mordechai Vanunu. The branch participated in the campaign to defend Vanunu throughout his 18-year prison sentence. He is still victimised, and was detained briefly on Christmas eve after trying to cross the border into the West Bank.

All these are examples of international solidarity in action, not words. A final case I wish to mention is that of Gyorgy Gongadze, the Ukrainian journalist murdered in 2000, that I personally have spent much time on, with the branch's full support. A memorandum on the case from Ukrainian journalists' organisations, the NUJ and the IFJ, went to the Council of Europe in November. Now we hope that, following the political upheavals in Ukraine, the authorities will co-operate with us on the case, and we have written to the new president, Viktor Yushchenko, about that. I'll keep the branch posted on developments.

Because of that activity, not to mention work commitments, I have not put in the time to the branch that it had a right to expect from a co-chair. I apologise for that. I think Dave has been persuaded by myself and his many other fans to stand as chair on his own for the coming year, and I enthusiastically endorse that nomination. I'll certainly be at branch meetings during the year, and if it's helpful to have me on the committee in a less prominent role, I would be happy to be nominated.

Last modified: 15 January 2005 - © 2004 contributors
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