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Student media has the right to report

by The Concordian March 17, 2015
Student media has the right to report

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.

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3 comments

Ben Prunty March 17, 2015 - 13:42

This is a generally well constructed and informative editorial regarding a difficult situation, and the topic of transparency is obviously important and ideally will be expanded as a practice in the future. I think in addition to this story though it needs to be said that the assembly felt as though it was on the defensive, in a very human way — honestly, also likely because we are all in roles that a lot of us still need to get used to.

We don’t have general assemblies on strike votes everyday, so it is natural for mistakes to be made by all parties. The journalists, assuming they aren’t going to rely *exclusively* on technicalities in the judicial system that only journalists and other professionals will be aware of, *could have been more sensitive* to the fact that they are now in a citizens assembly, in essence, and been more vocal about the fact that they are in the room. And, I, as the chair, could have announced the journalists presence as well.

All this is to say, my intention as the chair was to de-escalate the situation rather than escalate it by humanizing the “professionals” in the room (journalists, in this instance), which in my opinion are often mystified and expected by public opinion to be perfect at all times. Not everyone has experience with journalists, and surely not all journalists have experience with every setting they find themselves in. My apologies for not being as considerate as I could have been when attempting to do this — I am also learning. I was attempting to facilitate a space of open dialogue for the members of SOPHIA while respecting the role of the local media.

With that said, I think that the philosophy students had their voices heard at this meeting, and that was the ultimate point of this process.

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Dezzy March 18, 2015 - 21:12

Well said, I piped up about this in the meeting and ultimately I have to admit I was inexperienced and a bit under informed and caught up in the moment. I think we will all learn something from it and grow, journalist and philosophy students alike, thats what its all about right?

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Dezzy March 18, 2015 - 21:09

Transparency is a more relaxing walk on a two way street!

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