In defence of freedom of press

Last week, a letter was written by Juliette Cule on an alleged ‘unsubstantiated concern’ raised in an earlier article written by myself on the subject of turnout in the most recent Students’ Union elections that saw a turnout of under a fifth of eligible voters on campus.

It is this newspapers job to report and hold accountable the institutions of which its readers are a part of. I was elected as this Union’s Media Development Officer, when I pledged to make sure that student media would do just that.

Claims that any of the legitimate concerns over turnout and representation raised to this newspaper by students were trivial ‘unsubstantiated concern’ do a disservice to the voice that students have on campus, and the role that the media has in local and national affairs.

It is our job to report on stories of interest to students, and within any student (including the Education Officer’s) right to offer their thoughts in the form of a letter or comment piece.

This newspaper holds itself to account by publishing articles or letters that critique the paper itself, as has been demonstrated by Cule’s letter and a comment piece featured in the same issue- and so it should, if it expects open dialogue and debate within other components of University and Union life.
In regards to the criticism of the article itself, fifty per cent of the piece was dedicated to putting our queries to Union officers and a University spokesperson.

I put it to Cule that her allegation of what she calls a ‘negative article’ is in fact an example of how this newspaper is successful in its endeavour to challenge the Union over legitimate concerns, explained to us by the students they represent.

I have no quarrel with the Union, and personally commend the hiring of election ambassadors and the amount of personal enthusiasm channelled by officers and those who put themselves up for election.

But to contest that this newspaper should not be able to challenge issues such as this, in the way that it has done, is detrimental to the fundamental understanding that the press should hold elected officials and their actions to account.

Having gone through election week once myself, I can understand how hard some people work and how passionate some students are about doing right by their students by standing for election.

The editorial team and I all believe that Student Representatives have the potential to make powerful changes to this institution. But imagine how much more of an open university we could study in, if an officer was open to the idea of transparency and self-reflection.