What do exiled journalists need?

Exile on mean street

THE SEPTEMBER Branch meeting discussed what members who need asylum - exiled journalists - need and what the Branch can do about helping to provide it.

Forward Maisokwadzo, who is now working with the Refugees, Asylum and the Media (RAM) project, run by the media ethics charity PressWise, kicked off by acknowledging that he is "one of the lucky ones" among exiled journalists in UK. He had received overwhelming support from Branch member Jenny Vaughan after he arrived from Zimbabwe: "She brought me through when my spirits were lowest and my professional life had been shattered." He thanked the Branch, too, for helping colleagues like Besim Gerguri.

The RAM Project aims to identify exiled journalists in UK who've had difficulties in the home countries. Many of its 140 members' cases are still in limbo, even where their persecution is easily documented and proved. All are aware of the hostile coverage refugees receive in newspapers and hope the NUJ can help deal with this.

Some are annoyed, though, that the NUJ has come up with scheme to offer members seeking asylum a £10 "associate membership" that looked to some a lot like discrimination.

Rasheed Ogunlaru, a member of the union's Black Members' Council, said that it was now working with the Deputy General Secretary on this, and on improving union-wide assistance to such members.

The Branch agreed to ask exiled journalists what training and assistance they want to get established here and to organise a "Getting re-started in the UK" session - see below. The meeting also voted financial support for a refugee journos' website. At the October meeting, the Branch passed a motion which aims to sort out the membership status question.

Getting re-started, for exiled journalists

LONDON Freelance branch is holding an information evening for exiled journalists - asylum seekers and refugees who have previously worked as journalists, editors, writers or photographers. Experienced journalists Humphrey Evans and Phil Sutcliffe - who have taught "getting started" courses with the NUJ for several years - will give a short introductory course on starting out as a journalist in the UK.

This will include tips on how to find work, how to approach editors with ideas, how to get published, and some background on how the British media works. There will also be short talks by refugee journalists who have found work after arriving in Britain, who will share their experiences. The course is open to members and non-members who are refugees, asylum seekers or exiles and who have good English.

The information evening is on Monday 1 December from 7pm to 9pm Friends Meeting House, Euston Rd NW1 - opposite Euston railway station.

For more information, contact Humphrey Evans: email topwrite@hotmail.com

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