Together in Tunis

TRADES UNIONISTS from around the world have now a "Global Charter of Ethics for Journalists" and are supporting a campaign for a UN Convention on the Protection of Journalists and Media Professional.

The NUJ delegation

Jim Boumelha, Pierre Vicary, Ronan Brady, Michelle Stanistreet, Sian Jones, Seamus Dooley and Francesca Marchese in Tunis

Those are just two of the results of the 30th World Congress of the International Federation of Journalists which took place in Tunis in June.

London Freelance Branch was present as well, as I was elected to take part of this meeting, joining the official NUJ delegation. This included general secretary Michelle Stanistreet, assistant general secretary Seamus Dooley, president and vice president Sian Jones and Pierre Vicary, Jim Boumelha and Ronan Brady.

We were among the 245 delegates representing 187 unions and associations across the globe, talking about the future of journalism in the digital age.

I heard about how to attract to Unions young journalists working in digital jobs, how to help them defend themselves against unscrupulous employers, how to fix gender inequality in media and update uncompromising Ethics with the new tech challenges.

If it sounds familiar to a London-based journalist, imagine it on a much bigger scale and broader horizons.

London rarely has life-threatening working conditions, unlike many cities around the world where free speech is still an act of pure courage. But the global and multicultural London scenario has much in common with the inspired platform I was embedded in for five days.

The Congress was the first to be being held in Africa and in a Muslim country. Each document was written in three languages (French, English and Spanish) and real-time translations were provided in Arabic as well.

The Brussels-based IFJ, founded in Paris in 1926, has never been so global.

Tunisia was the first democracy to emerge from the Arab Spring revolutions. The President of the Tunisian Republic Beji Caid Essebsi visited the Congress to talk about free speech. The newly-elected IFJ president is African as well: Youness M'Jahed, from Morocco, spent years in jail because of his political views. On the occasion of the IFJ Congress, the African unions were all together and represented by the FAJ president Sadiq Ibrahim.

Together with thousands of colleagues, we marched along the streets of Tunis to the headquarters of the Tunisian union SNJT (Syndicat national des journalistes tunisiens) to call for an end to impunity for crimes against journalists: the appalling number of 95 colleagues were killed last year: we remembered freelance Lyra McKee as well - see the May Freelance. The locals supported us from balconies and terraces - it was such an empowering moment, even if more needs to be done in Tunisia about security, gender equality and LGBT rights.

The most-represented country was Russia, with 10 delegates. The Congress supported their motion against disinformation and fake news.

The NUJ has a respected position and it is on the frontline on topics such as the gender pay gap and equal pay. We also presented a motion proposing better collaboration with the UNI Global Union.

NUJ rep Jim Boumelha was reconfirmed IFJ Honorary Treasurer and former NUJ president Barry McCall was re-elected to the IFJ Finance Commission. Jeremy Dear, who was for many years NUJ general secretary, is the tireless IFJ deputy general secretary, helping Anthony Bellanger: Jeremy supervised me in the Elections Commission which run the voting system. Sian Jones and Pierre Vicary helped in the Presidium, a collective chairing organism of the Congress.

The majority of journalists working worldwide are now freelance. EU colleagues meet to discuss issues affecting us in the FREG - Freelance Rights Experts' Group (www.europeanjournalists.org/policy/freelance/). So it was natural to start conversations and share different approaches to unionism around the theme of freelancing. I had insights and useful conversations with colleagues such as Pablo Aiquel (SNJ-CGT, France and FREG co-chair), Chicago based Adrienne Gibbs (NWU, US) and Italian reps Raffaele Lorusso, Mattia Motta and Anna del Freo (FNSI). They all found our Rate for the Job really interesting. We aim to talk more about that in the near future.

I also spoke with the Spanish unions (with Paco Audije, Luis Villalva and Marta Escano) and colleagues from Switzerland (Sergio Ferrari), Australia (Shauna Black), Afghanistan (Hujatullah Mujadidi), Taiwan (Ian Chen), Japan (Mariko Lino), Canada (Jennifer Moreau) and may others.

I was impressed by senior vice-president Zuliana Lainez from Peru for her enthusiasm, her charisma, her powerful personality.

Our hosts in Tunis were welcoming: my thanks goes to Neji Bghouri, Dabbar Zied and Walid Bourouis.

You'll find all of them in my Tunis list on Twitter: twitter.com/fmarchese_uk/lists/ifjtunis. The full NUJ report lives at this link: www.nuj.org.uk/news/ifj-world-congress-2019-tunis/