Finnish, Norwegian, Danish and Icelandic unions will quit a global media federation on Tuesday in protest at "corruptive activity," including allowing Russian state media journalists in Ukraine to stay as members, the Finnish union said.
The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ), which represents 600,000 journalists in 146 countries, denounced the accusations as "false, defamatory and damaging."
The Nordic members accused the IFJ of longstanding undemocratic practices, unethical finances and of allowing the Russian state media representatives to continue as members.
"We call this corruptive activity," Hanne Aho, the chair of the Union of Journalists in Finland, told Reuters, adding the four Nordic unions would resign from the IFJ on Tuesday.
The leader of the Norwegian Union of Journalists, Dag Idar Tryggestad, said the unions had fought for years to put in place democratic rules on IFJ elections as well as transparency around decisions and spending.
"..we believe this (resignation) is the only thing that can save IFJ. Changes must be forced," he said.
Both Aho and Tryggestad said the Nordic unions' latest disappointment resulted from the IFJ not taking action against the Russian Union of Journalists for setting up regional journalists' associations in Ukrainian territories invaded by Russia.
"They have been able to do so in all tranquility without the international federation expelling the Russian union," Aho said.
The IFJ said its executive committee had triggered a formal process for suspending and expelling the Russian Union of Journalists. It said expenditure was formally audited every year, adding that it had sought to answer all questions posed by the Nordic unions.
"We entirely reject what are false, defamatory and damaging allegations," IFJ Deputy General Secretary Jeremy Dear told Reuters in an emailed response.
The Nordic unions also complained about what they said was the IFJ's non-transparent use of finances, including its decision to hold its world congress last year in Oman, which has limited press freedom, Aho said.
The congress in Oman was organized at the end of May, at a time when journalists were widely accusing FIFA, the world governing body of soccer, of corruption and criticizing it for taking the World Cup to Qatar despite its poor track record on human rights.
"Trappings at the congress were extremely flamboyant so we began to wonder where the money had come from to pay for them," Aho said, asking if it was appropriate for journalist unions to accept such lavish sponsoring.
Aho said the Union of Journalists in Finland had requested and received IFJ's budget for the congress, which showed that up to 745,000 euros ($811,000) of the total of 778,000 euros ($844,675) came from Omani ministries and private companies as well as the Oman Journalists' Association, while IFJ itself paid only 33,000 euros ($35,818) of the expenses.
The IFJ said the amounts included subsidies negotiated by the Oman Journalists' Association.
"This has been normal procedure used in the hosting of successive IFJ congresses over decades," it wrote in a statement shared with Reuters.
The IFJ, on its website, says it promotes collective action to defend human rights, democracy and media pluralism.
"IFJ policy is decided democratically at a Congress which meets every three years and work is carried out by the Secretariat under the direction of an elected executive committee," it says.