Concordia’s student press stands together against unnecessary exclusion of its reporters
On Monday, March 16, the Students of Philosophy Association (SoPhiA) voted to exclude two student journalists from a public general assembly in order to protect themselves from being further observed by the press.
This can be considered a suppression of the freedom of the press, and an obstacle for us to perform our duties to inform students at Concordia. Under no circumstances is it acceptable to shut out journalists because of a fear of being held accountable for what you say. If you raise your hand and open your mouth in a public forum, you are putting your opinion out to the public and should be ready to face any consequences of what you say.
Once some participants at the meeting realized that the discussion was being recorded by The Concordian, members argued that the journalists present should have formally announced themselves to the room.
First and foremost, general assemblies are open to the public and often attended by student journalists whose job it is to inform the Concordia community at large about what goes on.
Second of all, journalists do not have any obligation to announce themselves in a public forum. They can do so as a courtesy if they are filming or taking photos, but have no actual obligation to.
Thirdly, anyone who speaks up in a general assembly should understand the seriousness of presenting themselves in a public forum. The topics that can be discussed at events like this can be sensitive, and those who speak up should take what they say seriously.
On top of being barred from the meeting after closed session was invoked, our reporter was asked to delete his tape — which he graciously agreed to do.
The meeting’s topic turned to towards Concordia’s administration and their handling of austerity issues. A motion was presented to go into closed session in order to resolve the tension surrounding the two reporters present: Frédéric T. Muckle of The Concordian and Jonathan Cook of The Link.
“I think it was an overreaction on the part of some members of the assembly,” said Muckle. “I think this was an unfair thing to do.”
Earlier in the meeting, a comment was made about our reporter failing to announce himself due to being “inexperienced.” We resent the implication that he doesn’t know the procedures. Cook called this assumption demeaning and we agree entirely.
While a general assembly is allowed to go into closed session, that right is often reserved for instances where confidential information (such as resumes for potential employees or contracts) is being shared among voting members. However, using this power to shut out the press sets a dangerous precedent.
Former ASFA President Paul Jerajian also questioned the decision. “In my personal opinion, it’s very poor judgement on their part. In this instance, there’s no real reason to [go into closed session.]”
This mentality is directly in conflict with the need of transparency. Student organizations are accountable for their actions and the press plays an important role in preserving that balance.
Both The Concordian and The Link stand together in solidarity against this treatment of our journalists. We condemn this lack of transparency and the disregard for the role that journalism plays in informing the public discourse.