Image: Flickr - Silke Remmery

Newspaper cuttings: why print censorship is a mistake

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Last week, London’s City University Student’s Union held an AGM at which the student body voted to ban The Sun, The Express, and The Daily Mail from its campus, in an attempt to ‘Oppose Fascism and Social Divisiveness in the UK Media’.

Citing The Express and The Mail’s treatment of 3 Supreme Court judges who oppose Brexit, and The Sun’s coverage of the ongoing Hillsborough trials, the motion stated that the three newspapers had no place at the University.

To some extent, given that the successful passing of the motion does not bind the University itself to any action, and also that the papers in question are not actually sold anywhere on City University’s campus, the long-reaching impact here is minimal. Far more worrying, however, is the wider implication that motions like this have upon the nature of our society.

The motion stated that the three newspapers had no place at the University

I personally despise The Daily Mail. I think it dresses up bigotry and celebrity pap as legitimate news, and has very little idea of the message it’s trying to put out beyond the idea that everything is terrible and frightening, but that Jeremy Corbyn and European migrants are more terrible and frightening than most other things. It’s a point of genuine physical pain to me that my parents continue to buy the Saturday issue because “the TV guide is really good”.

Despite all this, I would never deign to tell someone that they weren’t allowed to read or buy The Mail or any of the other papers that are part of this planned boycott. Censorship of media which undermines your own beliefs is one of the central pillars of fascism, which is exactly what this motion is trying to combat.

I personally despise The Daily Mail. I think it dresses up bigotry and celebrity pap as legitimate news

Admittedly, it’s difficult to know exactly where to draw the line, especially when it comes to the distribution of material that seem to actually incite hatred. Writing this, I’m somewhat torn between my willingness to defend freedom of the press and my unwillingness to suggest that the far-right should be allowed to distribute hateful material wherever they please.

But these publications are not the far right. Right-wing populism gone too far they may be, but Britain First they are not. Rather than trying to outright ban these papers, supporting campaigns such as Stop Funding Hate, which seek to dissuade advertisers from working with them, are an effective middle-ground. In this situation, editors are at least given a choice – continue on their current political line with less money, or adapt to produce less inflammatory content.

I’m somewhat torn between my willingness to defend freedom of the press and my unwillingness to suggest that the far-right should be allowed to distribute hateful material

In all honesty, I can’t say I’m truly happy with either option. I believe that some of the journalism being produced at these papers is deeply irresponsible at best, but I can’t fully get behind the idea that it’s ok to silence these voices, even if it’s only by pricing them out of the market. Ignoring the people that these papers are talking to is exactly what got us into the political mess that is 2016 in the first place, and to continue to do so will only make things worse.

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