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ULU Reaffirms Media Independence

Jun 02 2004 12:39
Nichola Hawkins
Following attempts by Kings College Union to ban the latest edition of London Student, the ULU Council last night rejected a motion of Censure in their newspaper editor, and passed a paper reiterating that London Student is editorially independent.
Never mind Page 8, look what's on the front!

Stephen Fingleton’s “The Column” in the University of London’s student newspaper London Student had already caused complaints to be brought to the University of London Union (ULU) Executive in early May, at which “It was agreed that… LS [London student] should be free to print articles generally without interference.” They went on to suggest that problems arose because some readers did not understand the paper’s editorial independence, saying “offended readers and individuals do not see LS as separate and the damage often affects ULU more than LS.”

They then suggested that the column be discontinued but admitted they were “unsure how to do this in practice” and when London student Editor Lila Allen consulted ULU President Chris Piper concerning Mr Fingleton’s column for the next issue it was found that Mr Piper had no power to remove it from the newspaper. As Ms Allen reported to ULU council last night: “The article was not libellous and breached no legal code. As such, although the President was unhappy with the content, it was agreed it could be printed.”

Having been informed that his services may not be required the following year, Mr Fingleton had filled his final column of an article using an expletive 77 times, beginning “F**k it. F**k journalism. F**k journalists. F**k columnists especially… F**k the London Student.” However, more offence was caused as more sensitive topics were touched upon, such as “F**k genocide… war crimes… Al-Quaida… old people… Africa… AIDs… gay marriage rights… immigrants…” This was felt by some to be a breach of Equal Rights policies, although others suggested that the article’s coverage was in fact completely indiscriminate.

On May 25th, on receiving an advanced copy of the summer edition of London Student, King’s College Union President David Dunne responded by sending a message to ULU Council, stating his “disgust at this irresponsible and despicable article” treating sensitive issues “glibly" and swearing “gratuitously and unnecessarily.” He recognised the Editor’s independence but emphasised her accountability to ULU Council and hence “[called] on every member of ULU council to hold her to account.”

However, most controversy arose from the following paragraph, telling the editor “please do not send any copies to King's, we do not wish to stock this issue thank you and any received will be duly recycled”, action which sparked heated debate over the legality of such actions under the Education (no. 2) Act 1986 which protects free speech within Student Unions. This resulted in the issuing of a statement from ULU Executive, distancing itself from the newspaper and making it clear that “Having made our views known to the Editor privately, we respect that it is her professional judgement in regard to what is suitable for printing or not in such cases.”

Lila Allen (London student Editor) in turn issued a press release, comparing KCLSU’s actions to “witch-hunts against the free press, as exemplified by the recent treatment of Greg Dyke and Piers Morgan,” emphasising that “every student has a right to reply and is free to write for the paper.”

Last night, two KCLSU officers (not including President David Dunne or VP Media and Communications and London Student Editor-Elect, Alexi Duggins) put a Motion of Censure of Lila Allen to ULU Council, suggesting that in publishing Mr Fingleton’s latest column, Ms Allen was in breach of ULU’s Equal Opportunities Policy, which as an officer of the Union it is her duty to uphold, and that it “undermines the work of all London Student writers as much as it undermines the work of ULU to have the student voice taken seriously.” Ms Allen responded with an emergency motion emphasising the Freedom of the Press, stating that “blanket censorship of the press is completely unacceptable in a democracy” and “students are intelligent" and "do not need their union to dictate what they can and cannot read.” After some debate, ULU Council rejected the Motion of Censure and accepted Ms Allen’s paper affirming the Freedom of the Press. The statement issued by ULU Executive will be withdrawn, and a reworded statement “reaffirming the editorial independence of London Student and freedom of the press” will published on the front page of the ULU website shortly.

Imperial College’s own Student Media have specific right of editorial independence from both Imperial College and ICU as set out in the Memorandum of Understanding , which is due for review during the next academic year.

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Discussion about “ULU Reaffirms Media Independence”

The comments below are unmoderated submissions by Live! readers. The Editor accepts no liability for their content, nor for any offence caused by them. Any complaints should be directed to the Editor.
Jun 02 2004 13:28

Has anyone else heard rumours that our Lords and Masters in Beit Quad may be willing to ditch some of the editorial freedom of student media in order to get the new MoU passed...?

Jun 02 2004 14:27

By the way, for anyone else at a part of Imperial that London Student doesn't reach (or any intelligent and sophisticated KCL students who don't need their Union to dictate what they can and can't read...), the latest issue can be found here

the ofending article is on page 8, but the source of the front page article may look familiar...

3. LS   
Jun 02 2004 15:00

Big fuss over nothing, no-one reads that rag anyway

Jun 02 2004 16:21

no but it does make for good painting rag though, felix is just too small and not as absorbant...

5. LS   
Jun 02 2004 19:04

I agree with you about the absorbency, I've always found it convenient that there's a big pile of them situated outside the toilets in the union foyer.

6. Sam   
Jun 02 2004 21:57

yeah, bring back the old style felix - it must be cheaper to print on a**ewiping quality paper than the shimmery shiny stuff they use these days.

Jun 03 2004 03:09

Actually, the printing cost is lower per page than last year, even with the shiny paper and the colour.

So there. :-p

Jun 03 2004 13:16

Thanks to Nichola for a well written article. It's good to see a free press! Also good to see a discussion board where anyone can post, unlike KCLSU's forums.

9. Josh   
Jun 04 2004 01:37

Tim, I must say you really do dedicate your life totally to student union politics. For your own health and mine, please can I suggest taking up a hobby?

Jun 04 2004 08:19

I have many, many hobbies, but few that get noticed! (And some are frankly rather sad which is perhaps why I don't mention them so much, whilst others are rather personal.)

Never judge a person solely by the limited time you see them.

Jun 04 2004 09:39


its good to see you have not changed much!!!!!

From an ex-UKCer and miscer now at IC

(he used to be always involved heavily in this sort of stuff even then)

12. LS   
Jun 04 2004 13:22

New redord today.

Decided Felix contained nothing worth reading in less than 12 seconds.

I'm aiming for 10 seconds by the end of term

Jun 05 2004 02:00

Kiss my hairy a**e LS and do the crossword(s)

Jun 05 2004 10:45

I think tim should seek shock therapy to get cured- they do it in america!

15. John C   
Jun 05 2004 15:22

Who the hell is Tim?

Jun 05 2004 17:12

A ULU hack- the clue's in the email address, "@qmul"!

17. amram   
Jun 05 2004 21:15

he is a major hypocrite too and does not know how to wipe his nose properly when he sneezes...

Jun 07 2004 15:03

Tim RP is one of the few people around ULU with his head approximately screwed on, so there.

Jun 07 2004 16:32

I'm not the most likely person in the world to suggest that being a hack means one head is not "screwed on!"

Closed This discussion is closed.

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