Murdoch endorses ‘conscience clause’ for journalists proposed by the NUJ

A clause allowing journalists to speak out against unethical behaviour in newspapers is a “good idea”, Rupert Murdoch has said.

The proprietor endorsed the conscience clause, proposed by the National Union of Journalists, when answering questions submitted by the union at the Leveson Inquiry, admitting he had never heard of the idea before. The clause could be inserted into employment contracts, allowing staff to speak out on bullying and unethical newsgathering.

During the hearing, he asked John Hendy QC, representing the NUJ, why an anonymous journalist complaining of bullying at the News of the World had not simply resigned.

Lord Justice Leveson replied: “I think the problem with that might be that she needs a job.”

To the surprise of the judge, Murdoch said he was not aware of the settlement between the News of the World and former sports reporter Matt Driscoll, who was awarded £792,736 in 2009 after being unfairly dismissed by the paper. Driscoll claimed he had experienced a culture of bullying led by editor Andy Coulson.

Murdoch said he did not believe there had been any unethical treatment of journalists and photographers at News International and said staff at the News of the World seemed to be a “happy bunch” whenever he had visited the newsroom.

The proprietor was questioned by John Hendy QC, representing the NUJ, over evidence submitted to the by anonymous journalists, presented by the union’s general secretary Michelle Stanistreet in February.

Murdoch said staff can take complaints to News International’s internal staff association, funded by the company. He disagreed with Hendy, who suggested allowing the NUJ to represent NI journalists would be one step in eliminating bad practice.

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