On December 12, 2018, the Scarborough Campus Students’ Union (SCSU) Board of Directors voted unanimously to create an ad hoc committee on “media accreditation to study, reaffirm, or deny accreditation and recognition of legitimacy from student media.”
Moved by Raymond Dang, the motion stated that student media has been “abusing their positions as disseminators and aggregators of information,” and that “students deserve better reporting from currently ‘accredited’ student media.”
The motion comes after The Varsity, the St. George campus newspaper, covered the SCSU’s November 27 Board of Directors meeting, in which Dang moved a controversial motion to give $4,500 to the UTSC Women’s and Trans Centre, despite students previously voting against the motion at the SCSU’s Annual General Meeting (AGM).
The ad hoc committee is the first step in being able to control student media accreditation and access to meetings. According to the motion as it stands, student media must apply or reapply for accreditation for the union to either reaffirm or deny their access, and be able to cover the union’s events and meetings.
During the board meeting, The Varsity was asked to refrain from live-tweeting or photographing the meeting over concerns of online harassment of board members. Hildah Otieno, the chair of the meeting, stated that the ban was mainly about protecting board members from intimidation.
A similar incident of this kind happened again during the University of Toronto Graduate Students’ Union’s (UTGSU) Annual General Meeting on December 3. Two Varsity reporters were allowed to be present at the AGM on the condition that they would not live-tweet, or take photographs of the event. The reporters were subsequently asked to leave after continuing to live tweet at the direction of their editors.
In light of these recent incidents, the Canadian Association of Journalists president Karyn Pugliese released a statement calling for the student unions at the University of Toronto to end their attempts to block journalists from covering public meetings.
“The Canadian Association of Journalists reminds every government, whether elected by students or the general public, that they do not have the right to control which journalists attend events that are open to the public,” Pugliese stated.
She went onto say that “no government is above the law and journalists, including student journalists, have the constitutionally protected right to hold any and all governments to account on matters of public interest.”
In the motion put forth by Dang, it proposed that the SCSU adopt the CAJ’s ethics standards as “guiding principles” for the ad hoc committees deliberation.
Pugliese condemned the motion, stating that “the CAJ is not a regulatory body. Our ethics guidelines are benchmarks for journalists to self-assess their work. The CAJ objects strongly to any organization that seeks to purposely misuse our guidelines for their own self-interest or to restrict press freedom. To be clear, we oppose the use of our ethics guidelines in the way that is being suggested by the SCSU.”
“The CAJ objects strongly to any organization that seeks to purposely misuse our guidelines for their own self-interest or to restrict press freedom.”
The CAJ is the largest professional journalism organization in the country, and the national voice of journalists across Canada. They are committed to protecting the public’s right to know, and promoted to excellence in journalism.