Collecting UNpaid dues

HUMANITARIANISM begins at home - but not where the United Nations' news service IRIN is concerned, it seems.

One member struggled for five months to get paid for freelance reporting done for the service, and was obliged to write repeated emails to the commissioning editor, finance officer and even the service's managing director.

Ten separate requests for payment were made, but communications were met either with silence or promises to pay which subsequently went unfulfilled.

Bizarrely, the member was asked during the course of this correspondence to become a regular stringer on the reporting team concerned. For what, one might ask?

The payment process was only put in motion following the intervention of NUJ freelance organiser John Toner. The voluminous paperwork that forms part of the UN's payment process was only then, finally, sent to the member for them to complete.

It is common for IRIN stringers to experience delays and failures to pay, according to another source who knows many of its freelance contributors. As journalists covering humanitarian emergencies and conflict zones, IRIN freelances work in difficult and sometimes dangerous conditions. The service regularly advertises for freelances on its website, and the member had responded to one such advert.

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