02 August | 16:22:52
Scotland's Student Newspaper
Student paper under fire over Griffin interview
Leeds Student's interview with the BNP leader sparks NUS condemnation and fresh debate over 'no platform' policy
Wednesday, 07 November, 2012 | 09:00

An English student newspaper has found itself at the centre of a fresh row over ‘no platform’ after publishing an interview with the leader of the far-right British National Party.

Leeds Student, the student newspaper of the University of Leeds, have been roundly criticised by liberation activists, including the NUS’ black students’ officer, for the 26 October publication of their interview with Nick Griffin.

In the interview, Griffin described finding the sight of two men kissing “creepy”, as well as claiming that the BNP’s declining support will see a resurgence: “once the Labour Party are back in power.”

The publication faced immediate condemnation in an open letter to the Leeds Student authored by the National Union of Students (NUS) black students’ officer Aaron Kiely and published on the NUS website.

This letter, which has been countersigned by many other student activists, including the president of Edinburgh University Students’ Association (EUSA) James McAsh, demanded the immediate removal of: “this offensive interview that gives a platform to a fascist.”

It goes on to claim that in publishing it, the paper “risks giving legitimacy to a fascist organisation, and boosts the BNP’s attempts to join the political mainstream when we should be isolating them.”

Editor-in-chief Lucy Snow defended the decision to publish the interview, vowing that the paper’s editorial staff have no intention of giving in to NUS demands. 

“I am confident we made the right decision to publish and will not be backing down,” she told The Journal

 “Without a platform on which to display his lunacy, Griffin is as legitimate as the next elected MEP. As for the NUS, the idea of fighting fascism through censorship is completely illogical.”

The president of the NUS, Liam Burns, has attempted to steer a path between the two views. In a blog post he said that, while proud of the NUS’s: “long-standing policy of offering no platform to fascists,” he will not be signing the open letter condemning the publication of the interview, believing that “in order to stay true to [the] values of democracy, equality and collectivism…we must trust our member students’ unions to take their own democratic decisions rather than seeking to hand them down from on high.”

Snow argued in a blog post on the Guardian website that it is insulting to students to imply that they need protecting from extreme views, and that the paper has every right to publish the material.

Snow counters that this is not only a question of free speech, but one of legitimacy, claiming that Leeds’ students did not vote for the NUS’s “no platform for fascists” policy, while they did vote on the editorship of the paper: “While we have a say on who gets to be an executive member of the student union at Leeds University, we don’t get to choose our national NUS officers or their policies.”

Leeds Student is owned by LUSU, and its editor is a full-time sabbatical officer of the union.

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