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YUSU Elections – The Presidential Candidates on Media Freedom

The University of York has gained wide renown for the quality and diversity of its student media. As a result, censorship of or limitations on this media have been – rightly – the topic of much discussion; especially where this is the result of a YUSU imposition rather than a legal issue. With the YUSU President granted a key role in the Union’s oversight of campus media by the Media Charter, York Liberty naturally took an interest in the views of the six candidates still vying to replace Ben Leatham.

When is it appropriate to withdraw a media article, or prevent it from being published, in the interests of student welfare?”

Millie Beach – “I believe that YUSU should reduce the amount of censorship currently operating with student media, they are award winning for a reason! However, if an article will have a directly significant negative and harmful impact on the welfare of the individual then it would be necessary to work out a compromise. The media should be focusing on critiques of professionalism rather than personal attacks. Name and blame rather than name and shame.”

Ciaran Morrissey – “It is appropriate to withdraw or prevent the publication of articles if they are libellous, if they directly attempt to smear one or more members of the student body, or if the article itself can be considered a personal attack. However, it is important to note that publication of an article does not imply endorsement from the University, YUSU, or any of the media societies, and so it may be important to more directly signpost this, to conclusively shift responsibility to the writer of the article.”

“I’m not convinced that YUSU’s media guidelines need to be any stricter than the law on this matter. I would add that if a student has written an article that can be reasonably assumed to result in a large backlash against them, they should be warned of this possibility, but they should be allowed to publish regardless.”

Habib Nassar – “I believe that if an article contains any information that might put somebody in real danger (in terms of their physical or mental health) then it shouldn’t be published. However, the media should be an outlet for expression and discussion of a wide range of topics so articles shouldn’t be censored if they just offend people. I love the mix of campus, national and international news that York’s media outlets provide and students should be allowed to talk about these issues even if they might be deemed as controversial. Also, the media should be able to scrutinise students, officers and staff members and hold them accountable to their actions that directly affect the student or university and YUSU policy.”

JJ Wilson – “When the article actively and heinously offends the audience.”

Oliver Wilson – “I’ve pledged to respond to all Freedom of Information Act requests promptly and fully, in line with non-exempt organisations. A free and effective campus press is hugely important in holding both the University and the Students’ Union to account, and must be protected. YUSU should hold oversight of campus media organisations, but in recent years the frequency and extent to which this oversight has been used has strayed increasingly closer to censorship.”

Ananna Zaman – “It should only happen if there is a legal basis but I am aware though that sometimes things are pulled without a legal basis.”