The Canadian Association of Journalists (CAJ) has called for U of T’s student unions to “abandon attempts to block journalists from covering public meetings” in a statement released Thursday.
CAJ’s statement comes after the Scarborough Campus Students’ Union (SCSU) Board of Directors voted unanimously on December 12 to take a first step toward creating a committee to control student media accreditation and access to meetings.
The SCSU claimed that the move was necessary because “student media have been abusing their positions as disseminators and aggregators of information.”
CAJ rebuked the union’s actions, stating that “the [SCSU]’s attempt to manipulate media coverage is undemocratic. SCSU should disband its committee immediately.”
“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,” said CAJ President Karyn Pugliese.
In recent months, The Varsity has reported on issues of food quality at SCSU-affiliated outlets, as well as the decision by the Board of Directors to give an additional $4,500 to the UTSC Women’s and Trans Centre, despite students voting against the extra funding at the SCSU’s Annual General Meeting.
The motion on media accreditation was moved by Director of Political Science Raymond Dang, who also proposed the motion to fund the Women’s and Trans Centre. Dang wrote that “students deserve better reporting from currently ‘accredited’ student media.”
Dang also proposed that the SCSU adopt the CAJ’s ethics standards as “guiding principles” for the committee’s deliberation, which the CAJ censured in its statement.
“The CAJ objects strongly to any organization that seeks to purposely misuse our guidelines for their own self-interest or to restrict press freedom,” read the statement.
Varsity reporters were also barred from taking photos and live tweeting from a University of Toronto Graduate Students’ Union (UTGSU) meeting on December 3. The reporters were told to leave the meeting after continuing to tweet, at the direction of their editors.
CAJ is the largest professional journalism organization in the country, representing about 600 members across Canada. They aim to provide public-interest advocacy and promote excellence in journalism.
The Varsity has reached out to the SCSU and the UTGSU for comment.