If the motion 314 is reached, London Student is today calling on delegates at NUS Conference to approve a motion to ensure free, fair and informed coverage of student union elections.
Motion 314 was proposed by Tom Parker, Media Officer at Bath University Students Union in response to coverage of student elections being blocked, ostensibly to prevent criticism of officers and candidates. They were barred from discussing whether officers had successfully delivered manifesto points, preventing student journalists from holding their unions to account.
Speaking to London Student, Tom said: “This motion isn’t about creating biased coverage, it’s about giving students the facts so that they feel informed when voting, and ensuring that elections are about policies rather than popularity.
“Often these policies were probably well meant to prevent bias or unfairness, but in reality, the lack of a free press to hold candidates to account damages student democracy, leaving the electorate unengaged and uninformed.”
“It is time for NUS and elected officers to support student media in providing comprehensive coverage of a practice that is integral to the student movement.”
There is never a good reason to prevent fair and accurate reporting. According to the NUS’ own guidelines, student media is uniquely placed to enhance democratic process in unions and ensure that officers and candidates fulfil their duties to students.
Student media has been under consistent threat this year. Earlier this year a student journalist at UCL was threatened with dismissal in response to an article she had written, effectively gagging her and other students from covering stories of great importance.
Her experience demonstrates the precarious situation of student media, and it is thus essential that our union supports journalists openly and enthusiastically.
The motion is also supported by the Student Publication Association (SPA). The outgoing SPA Chair, Jem Collins, said: “Too many student unions effectively gag their student newspapers on reporting anything but propaganda during their elections, and this is incredibly damaging to democracy.