Edinburgh University student newspaper gagged

Edinburgh's student association. Picture: Greg Macvean
Edinburgh's student association. Picture: Greg Macvean
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STUDENT leaders are facing an angry backlash after slapping their own newspaper with a gagging order.

Editors at the Student have been forced to scrap 4000 copies of an edition after Edinburgh University Students’ Association (EUSA) took court action banning the publication of an article due to appear in the issue.

The interim interdict granted by the Court of Session in Edinburgh also ordered the Student to pay EUSA’s legal costs.

Although the exact content of the article remains unknown, it is understood to be linked to the suspension of Max Crema, vice-president of services at EUSA, last July.

The terms of the interdict prevent the Student from publishing “any material purporting to suggest that the pursuer is an organisation which is poorly governed and whose management are inexperienced and unaccountable” and adds that confidential material leaked by an “unknown source” was included in the banned article.

The Student news editor Thurston Smalley vented his anger at the move by publishing a front-page article under the headline “Censored by EUSA”.

Mr Smalley then wrote: “EUSA’s court-issued interdict against the Student is a shameful violation of the principles of democracy and press freedom, and represents a thinly-veiled attempt at controlling the flow of information regarding the activities of members of this community’s democratically elected student union.

“We firmly believe that the information enclosed in the documents we were given should be in the public domain, but now we’re unable to fulfil our duty to put them there. EUSA won. The underdog lost.”

Anger quickly spread among students on social networking websites, with some describing EUSA’s decision to go to court as “obscene” and “gravely disappointing”. A spokeswoman for the Student said: “Due to current legal issues we cannot comment on the article in question, but we can express our frustration at the action taken by our student union against us, when we believe we should be able to report on their actions as our representatives.”

Former editor Jasper Jackson, 27, who ran the paper in 2008, said EUSA would eventually regret taking legal action.

He said: “From what I remember EUSA had a good record of promoting democratic policies and defending things like press freedom.

“It’s also quite a stupid move, as doing something like this is almost guaranteed to result in more publicity, not less.”

EUSA president James McAsh said: “Although we are a democratic organisation there are certain legal obligations that we are required to adhere to.”