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The National Union of Journalists, together with the International Federation of Journalists, are issuing a call to arms over a journalist’s right to refuse dangerous assignments like the Iraq war.

More background information here (Word doc).

The NUJ and IFJ are asking their members and fellow unions to contribute to the legal fund of a journalist who lost his job for refusing assignments to Iraq.

Former London based ABC News journalist Richard Gizbert has already won a unanimous judgment from a UK employment tribunal, which ruled he was unfairly dismissed by the American network in 2004 for refusing to go to Iraq.

NUJ General Secretary Jeremy Dear called the verdict “hugely important” for journalists and their families. Mr Gizbert’s lawyers say the case also has implications for the interpretation of employment law throughout the European Union. Since the judgment was based on UK health and safety law, Mr Gizbert’s lawyers say it will offer protection to employees in other fields as well.

“The issue here could not be more clear,” said Aidan White, General Secretary of the IFJ, “a media worker’s right to refuse a dangerous assignment and an employer failing to take responsibility.”

ABC, which is owned by the Disney Company, is trying to reverse the judgment at appeal, and to eliminate the important precedent set by the tribunal. ABC has indicated that if it fails to win at this stage, it will appeal once again, to the British Court of Appeal.

In July, the tribunal issued a compensation ruling, saying ABC should pay Mr Gizbert £99,000 for unfairly dismissing him. However, the award does not cover Mr Gizbert’s debts from fighting this case, primarily his legal fees. Moreover, as long as ABC continues to appeal this decision, Mr Gizbert will not see a penny.

Mr Gizbert says “It is time for journalists and union members from far and wide to come together to fight this bully of an employer. A joint effort would send an important signal to ABC/Disney; that this case is no longer about an individual taking on a company alone; that journalists and union members everywhere are prepared to stand together to protect legal judgments that are important to people.”

Mr Gizbert’s legal fund, which journalists in the UK and abroad are being asked to support, will be coordinated and administered through the NUJ. Any funds provided will help ensure that Mr Gizbert will not be left in debt for fighting a case that stands to benefit thousands of others, both in the field of journalism and beyond.

Please make a donation to: Richard Gizbert Legal Defence Fund, c/o NUJ, Headland House, 308-312 Gray’s Inn Road, London, UK, WC1X 8DP.

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