Trinity College, Knights of the Campanile initiation ceremony. Credit: Eleanor O’Mahony, The University Times
The threat to the future of one of the two student newspapers at Dublin’s Trinity College has been averted following a referendum among students who voted against a proposition to defund the University Times.
The controversy, which was viewed as having implications for press freedom and freedom of speech at the university by bodies such as the National Union of Journalists, followed reporting of alleged hazing at an all-male and secretive sporting club, the Knights of the Campanile.
The story, reported last week by Index On Censorship, centred on the methods used to investigate the story. Those favouring punishing the newspaper claimed that listening in and using a recording device was an infringement of their privacy rights and suggested journalists would be randomly bugging student rooms.
Those favouring the newspaper and its staff said the story was in the public interest and that justified the journalists’ actions. Among those who supported the University Times included a former attorney general and minister for Justice, Michael McDowell. Support also came from the International Federation of Journalists and the NUJ’s Ethics Council, as well as a number of prominent Irish journalists.
The other university newspaper, Trinity News, accused the University Times of acting contrary to journalistic ethics and called for the resignation of the editor.
The vote was 788 voting to defund the newspaper and a massive 2271 against, which is 74 per cent in favour of the University Times.[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column][vc_basic_grid post_type=”post” max_items=”4″ element_width=”6″ grid_id=”vc_gid:1555320232097-24dbceca-960a-5″ taxonomies=”8843″][/vc_column][/vc_row]
Trinity College, Knights of the Campanile initiation ceremony. Credit: Eleanor O’Mahony, The University Times
UPDATE: Some 74 per cent of students voted against slashing the funding of The University Times at Trinity College, Dublin.
A student newspaper at Ireland’s oldest university, Trinity College, Dublin, could face closure after a forthcoming student referendum due to a row over methods used to investigate a story about initiation into an elitist all-male college society.
The initiation ceremony, or “hazing”, was seemingly meted out to those invited to become members of the Knights of the Campanile, an invitation-only sporting society, based on similar bodies at Oxford and Cambridge universities.
The story was published in The University Times, a student union-funded, though independent newspaper, last month. The story, Knights of the Campanile Hazes Members on Campus, went on to say that reporters from the newspaper had witnessed an initiation ceremony for the elite invitation-only society. It claimed members were taken to the rooms of the society president, while the reporters listened outside and left a recording device outside the door. The reporters heard the potential members being jeered, taunted and told to “bend over”, “get in the shower” to “whisper insults in each others’ ears” and that “HIV is going on your toast tomorrow”.
Groaning, gagging and retching sounds were heard coming from the room. Members were told “it’s gonna be a long night, boys” before being driven away in rental cars.
There was an almost instant condemnation of the methods used rather than the society and the hazing allegation, including from the rival newspaper, Trinity News, which called for the resignation of the editor and said the methods were contrary to journalistic ethics. A petition calling for the newspaper to be defunded, which would almost certainly close it, was also initiated.
However, the story grew. The NUJ’s Ethics Council came out in support The University Times, whose staff are student members of the union, and the International Federation of Journalists described the attempted closure as an attack on press freedom. The university’s School of Law is split, with three professors highlighting the inviolability of the dwelling in the Constitution of Ireland, which the journalists are meant to have breached. Their colleague, professor Eoin O’Dell, defended the newspaper, its reporters and their methods, based on a public interest defence that trumped privacy and was justified by the public interest and the importance of the story. Michael McDowell, Ireland’s former Attorney General and former Minister for Justice, argued at a public meeting at Trinity that the public interest and the guarantees of a free press in the constitution were enough to protect the newspaper and its ethical behaviour.
Another solution, which was not taken up, was that instead of threatening a newspaper with closure, the issue should be taken to the Irish Press Council for adjudication, as both student newspapers are members.
The same newspaper had previously published a story concerning hazing by the college boat club.
The referendum will take place on 10 and 11 April.[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column][vc_basic_grid post_type=”post” max_items=”4″ element_width=”6″ grid_id=”vc_gid:1555078636454-225c0bbf-fd09-5″ taxonomies=”8843″][/vc_column][/vc_row]
Guerin, who had been working as a freelance journalist for Ireland’s Sunday Independent, made a name for herself investigating and exposing the crimes of senior members of Dublin’s criminal underworld. But such a reputation can be a dangerous thing for an investigative reporter to have. Guerin was subject to a number of attacks and threats, including against the life of her young son Cathal. In 1995 she was shot in her home but survived. Refusing to yield, she continued her work.
“Veronica was a late entrant to journalism; she trained and worked initially in accountancy so she had an instinct for business and understood money,” says Séamus Dooley, Irish Secretary, National Union of Journalists. “That was very useful in studying records and following the money.”
Her death prompted a wave of public anger culminating in the establishment of the Criminal Assets Bureau, followed by more than 150 arrests and a major hunt for organised criminal gangs. “The idea of a designated bureau with sweeping powers to target those with suspicious wealth was a direct response to her murder and caused havoc among those heading criminal gangs,” says Dooley.
Guerin’s death was described by then-Taoiseach John Bruton as a “an attack on democracy”. Unfortunately, this sentiment was echoed earlier this year when current Taoiseach Enda Kenny said: “Journalists and media organisations will not be intimidated by such threats, which have no place in a democratic society.”
Jimmy Guerin, the brother of Veronica, said at the time: “Successive governments have let down the memory of Veronica … by failing to provide the resources required to beat the gangs.”
So are we back to the way things were two decades ago?
“The situation has been simmering beneath the surface for a while, but the turf wars between the Kinahan and the Hutch families, along with the nature of the violence, is new,” says Dooley. “Gerry Hutch is someone Veronica would have covered in her time, so there is a direct connection with what came before.”
“However, there was this perception that Dublin was a city on lockdown following the killings and journalists are operating under fear,” adds Dooley. “This isn’t bandit country, and there aren’t large numbers of journalists fearful for their lives.”
This shouldn’t mean complacency, adds Dooley, who states that the NUJ has supported a number of journalists at risk in Ireland in recent years.
“One of the problems is that Dublin is a small city, so, naturally, the number of people covering crime is very small,” says Dooley. “Veronica was very well-known to the people she was writing about and so are today’s reporters.”
With crime reporting being such a small part of the market, there is great pressure to deliver stories quicker, which brings problems in itself.
“Today’s journalists are expected to take more risks, and freelancers — as Veronica was — take even greater risks than those in staff jobs,” says Dooley. “While I understand that there is also the commercial element of selling newspapers in order to survive, sensationalising crime coverage in such a high profile way and being overly provocative in the process of selling comes at a price.”
His murder remains an isolated case, but recent years have seen a spate of attacks and threats against journalists in the country. In 2014, Irish News reporter Allison Morris was called a “Fenian bastard” and a “Fenian cunt” as she left court by a gang who threatened to cut her throat.
Index on Censorship recently appointed a new youth advisory board who attend monthly online meetings to discuss current freedom of expression issues and complete related tasks. As their first assignments they were asked to provide a short bio to introduce themselves, along with a photograph of them holding a quotation highlighting what free expression means to them.
I am from Berlin, Germany, where I study political science at Free University Berlin. I have worked as an intern with Reporters Without Borders and RTL Television, which made me passionate about the importance of freedom of speech.
I believe that freedom of expression forms an important cornerstone of any effective democracy. Journalists and bloggers must live without fear and without interference from state or economic interests. Unfortunately, this is not the case. Journalists, authors and everyday citizens are imprisoned or killed by radicals, state agencies or drug cartels. Raif Badawi, James Foley, Khadija Ismayilova, Avijit Roy – the list is endless.
We need to remind ourselves and the powerful of today, that freedom of expression as well as freedom of information are basic human rights, which we have to defend at all costs.
Mariana Cunha e Melo
I am from Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. I graduated from law school in Rio and I have a degree from New York University School of Law. My family has taught me about the dangers of censorship and dictatorship, so I have always been interested in studying civil rights. This was the main reason I decided to study law.
I grew up listening to stories about the media censorship in Brazil during the military dictatorship. The fight against the ghost of state censorship has always sounded very natural to me – and, I believe, to all my generation. When I finished law school I found out that the new villain my generation has to face is the censorship based on constitutional values. The argument has changed, but the censorship is not all that different. So I decided to dedicate my academic and my professional life as a lawyer to fight all sorts of institutionalised censorship in Brazil.
I was born and raised in Kenya, and I am currently working as the sub-Saharan Africa policy analyst at Access Now, an international organisation that defends and extends the digital rights of users at risk around the world. My role involves working on the connection between internet policy and human rights in African Union member countries. I am an affiliate at the Internet Policy Observatory (IPO) at the Center for Global Communication Studies, University of Pennsylvania. I also currently serve as a member of the UN Secretary General’s Multi-stakeholder Advisory Group on internet governance.
The reason why I have always been passionate about protecting the open internet is that it is a cornerstone for advancing free speech in the post-millennium era and there is a great need to build common ground around a public interest-oriented approach to internet governance.
I grew up in Portugal, and I am now based between London and Bogotá, Colombia. I am a freelance filmmaker and journalist. Working in documentary production and community-based, participatory journalism informed a growing interest in journalistic practices, freedom of expression and access to information.
I believe that one of the greatest threats to freedom of expression is the flagrant violation of civil liberties under the banner of national security. The war on terror, underscored by Bush’s declaration “You’re either for us or against us”, has collapsed the middle ground, suppressing any struggles that challenge that statement. Freedom of expression has become a pretext for silencing those who have the least access to it; those who do not fall in line with the global order’s supposed defence of freedom against barbarism and obscurantism.
I’m originally from Birmingham, and now a postgraduate student at University College London, specialising in Russian and post-Soviet politics. This has inevitably educated me on the pressures exerted upon freedom of expression in Russia, whose suffocated and disenfranchised opposition journalists I am currently investigating.
Hostility to free expression has become a staple of my university life. Rather than developing a coherent set of ideologies to challenge toxic values in the open, it has become mainstream for students of the most privileged universities in the world to veto them on behalf of everyone else, no-platforming and deriding free speech.
I am convinced that there is no point fighting for an egalitarian society if any monopolies over truth are permitted. Freedom of speech is, therefore, something I am keen to promote in whatever small way I can.
My home is in south-east London but I spend most of my time in York, studying for my bachelor’s degree in English and related literature. I am currently the co-chair of York PEN, the University of York’s branch of English PEN, and a founding member of the Antione Collective, a human rights-focused theatre company.
Studying literature from across the globe has introduced me to issues of freedom and censorship, and the devastating effects censorship can have on national progress. Freedom of expression on campuses is hugely important to me as a student and it is currently under threat. Well-meaning individuals are shutting down the open debate that is vital to academic institutions. The only way to fight harmful ideas is to engage them head-on and destroy them through academic debate, not to ban them.
I am a journalist and student currently studying for a MPhil in race, ethnicity and conflict at Trinity College Dublin. It was studying literary works from the Soviet period during my undergraduate degree in Russian and French at University College London that initially highlighted the issue of censorship for me. The quote I selected, “manuscripts don’t burn”, is from the book Master and Margarita by Russian author Mikhail Bulgakov. He wrote about the hardship that many writers faced as they had to adjust their own writing in accordance with the authority, as well as the fact that not all that is written can be taken to be true.
I think that these themes are very relevant today. Whether people are censored or self-censor out of fear of punishment or of being wrong, limiting freedom of expression results in loss of debate, of exchange and of creativity. Being denied freedom of expression is being denied the right to participation in society.
I have been involved in journalism since I began studying at Lafayette College, Pennsylvania, USA, and have been engaged in press freedom and reporting in three countries since then. I studied in Turkey last spring, where I interviewed and wrote about journalists and press freedom. It motivated me to begin researching and writing on my own about these topics. Now, as I study for a semester in Cambridge in the UK, I continue to talk about and advocate for free speech and press.
I find it absolutely amazing the power words and information can have in a society. It becomes then extremely damaging to realise that some things cannot be published because they conflict with those in power. Free speech is now becoming a hot topic around the world, particularly among youth, and it makes it all the more important to be able to approach freedom of expression critically and objectively.