The University of Edinburgh’s student newspaper has been forced to withhold thousands of copies from distribution following legal action by Edinburgh University Students’ Association, which bankrolls the publication.
EUSA obtained an interim interdict from the Court of Session in Edinburgh, barring publication of an article due to appear in The Student on Tuesday 22 January.
A copy of the court submission and judgement handed down by Lord Jones on Monday 21 January, seen by The Journal last week, includes a request by EUSA's solicitors Turcan Connell to bar 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”.
The submission notes that “information [in the story]... was gleaned from confidential material which was leaked to The Student by an unknown source.”
It also requests that the paper pay EUSA’s legal costs.
In a statement, EUSA president James McAsh said: “Although we are a democratic organisation, there are certain legal obligations that we are required to adhere to.”
A EUSA spokesperson declined to comment further on the matter.
The story is understood to relate to the lengthy imbroglio which resulted in vice-president services Max Crema’s ten-week suspension in July 2012, for reasons which remain officially undisclosed. Further details cannot be reported while legal proceedings are ongoing.
The Journal broke the news of Mr Crema’s suspension in September. Sources said at the time that the sabbatical officer’s relationship with EUSA’s professional staff had soured following allegations in an anonymously-written item, published on Mr Crema’s EUSA blog, of routine sexual harassment and poor working conditions at EUSA venues.
The Student today published a front-page item under the headline “SHAMEFUL”, confirming the existence of the interdict and quoting from the order. In the article, and a supporting editorial, the editors accuse the union of censorship, and say they believe that EUSA’s justification for seeking the interdict was spurious.
In the leader comment, the editors write: “It deeply saddens us that EUSA would rather spend valuable time and money on suppressing the voice of the students and stifling the freedom of the press than allowing information which we are convinced every student has a right to know come to light.”
In a statement last weekend, the paper’s editors told The Journal: “Unfortunately, we’re very reluctant to comment any further on the issue as we’re keen to stay within the terms of the court order. Given our experiences last week, we’re concerned about what the repercussions may be if we give detailed comment.”
Today’s articles are the first public confirmation by either side of the ongoing legal action. Sources at The Student said the paper were now exploring their options.
The interdict, which is valid for one year and one day unless rescinded earlier, orders that a further hearing on the case be held not sooner than 21 days of the judgement being served.
The Student is the UK’s oldest student newspaper, founded in 1887 by renowned Scots author Robert Louis Stevenson. Former editors include ex-prime minister Gordon Brown and former foreign secretary Robin Cook.
In 2002, the paper was pushed to the brink of bankruptcy by dwindling advertising revenues, which led EUSA to take over responsibility for ad sales. The union remains a crucial financier of the paper, though relations have chilled in the last year after senior EUSA figures signalled that the union’s funding of the paper may be significantly reduced in the future.
Update [Sunday 10 February, 19:50]: EUSA have this evening released a longer statement, saying:
"As most of you are aware, The Student Newspaper was last month stopped by the Court of Session from publishing a specific story. I understand that this is frustrating for students accustomed to a higher level of openness and transparency from EUSA, but I can only reiterate our previous position that in this specific case we are bound by the law. I trust that our members will understand that this is an exceptional situation and will continue to exercise their right to challenge, question and disagree with what EUSA does going forward."
Clarification [Monday 11 February, 18:30]: The original version of this article stated that the Court of Session interdict barred 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". The article has now been updated to reflect the fact that this sanction was requested by EUSA's solicitors in their submission to the court, rather than being included in the judgement handed down by Lord Jones. We apologise for the error - Ed.
Additional reporting by Jen Owen, Gareth Llewellyn and John Hewitt Jones.