Making sense of senseless censorship

**The posters, the canvassing, the constant Facebook groups. Stickers on your Bread Oven, and leaflets littering campus. It can only be SU election time over the next few weeks. **

As long as I’ve been at Warwick, there have been a number of informal rules about what we as student media can and can’t put out about elections, as it’s thought we could influence the result, and therefore should aim to be as unbiased as we possibly can.

However, this year the rules have been made concrete, and have been written down for us, which we have been forced to abide to.

We must make sure we offer coverage equally to all candidates, and keep it as unbiased as possible. We must not write anything bad about a candidate as it may be construed as negative campaigning.

It might not be quite as bad as Edinburgh University’s Students’ Association, who recently gagged their SU newspaper The Student into forbidding publication of a story regarding an officer, or University of Central Lancashire forcing it’s publication to sign a gagging agreement, but it’s still not ideal.

I can understand the rules. Despite our fears that no one will read the Boar carefully enough to notice the typo on page 17, the truth is that a lot of students do read it, and therefore what we write can impact students. No club or society can endorse a candidate, (including us) but we do have a right to let students know as much as we can find out that they don’t necessarily know, about the people they could be electing.

Students directly elect their representatives and pay them a wage to do so. If a candidate was deliberately lying to students, do they not deserve the right to know? If they were pledging to do things as an officer that were inconceivable, were already to be put in place, or had ulterior motives, isn’t it our duty to report on it?

We should, in every case. Without this, what is the point of us?

I am not advocating a complete freedom in what we can and cannot write, including targeted attacks, tabloid gossip and slander. Our coverage should be as fair, accurate and unbiased as possible, but as all journalists know, complete impartiality is impossible in any media organisation.

As mere students, we may have no right to do so. Political commentators have years of experience to warrant judging those involved, their actions and policies. I disagree. Decent journalists don’t need to be experts, just fantastic researchers and scrutinisers.

Student journalists are not taken seriously enough when they do incredible work, and are criticised, ridiculed and trolled when they make a mistake.

We have a duty to omit bias for our friends and to tell the truth to our readers, and we take this seriously – it’s our job to.

A free press, despite its problems of the past few years nationally, is a key component to a democratic society.

These restrictions automatically give organisations outside of the SU such as SIBE and The Tab an immediate advantage – they can write whatever they like with no consequences.
In a supposedly free and open society, it is clear that students’ unions such as Warwick, despite their intentions, are restricting democracy in attempts to stifle discussion, debate and fair comment.

In order to be able to properly scrutinise and hold to account our representatives without fear of backlash and oppression, this needs to change.


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