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U OF T STUDENT UNIONS MUST REINSTATE JOURNALISTS' ACCESS TO PUBLIC EVENTS

OTTAWA, Dec. 20, 2018—Student unions at the University of Toronto must abandon 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.

Last week, the board of directors of the Scarborough Campus Students’ Union (SCSU) voted to create a committee that would decide which student journalists, if any, are allowed to cover their public meetings.

This follows a SCSU board meeting where journalists were told they could not tweet out the proceedings. Earlier in December, journalists covering the annual general meeting of U of T’s Graduate Student Union were told to leave the event after they live-tweeted the proceedings.

The CAJ notes with concern that these attempts to restrict journalists access to meetings follows a number of excellent articles published in two newspapers, The Varsity and The Underground, exposing a series of food quality issues at restaurants and events overseen by the union. Student journalists also reported on a decision by the SCSU board of directors to overrule a funding decision voted on at that group’s annual general meeting.

"The Scarborough Campus Students’ Union's attempt to manipulate media coverage is undemocratic. SCSU should disband its committee immediately," said CAJ President Karyn Pugliese. "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.”

SCSU claims to want to use the Canadian Association of Journalists ethics standards as “guiding principles for the deliberation” of its committee regarding journalists’ access.

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.

"Students at U of T should be choosing what coverage of their elected representatives they want to read, not seeing those representatives chose what coverage is suitable for them,” said Pugliese.

The CAJ is Canada's largest national professional organization for journalists from all media, representing about 600 members across the country. The CAJ's primary roles are to provide public-interest advocacy and high-quality professional development for its members.

For further information:

Karyn Pugliese, CAJ president

204-995-1071

karyn@caj.ca

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