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Salient. An Organ of Student Opinion at Victoria University College, Wellington N.Z. Vol. 21, No. 6. May 28, 1958

To the Secretary

To the Secretary

Dear Sir,—I wish to express concern at the recent decision of the Executive to put into operation the powers of censorship over "Salient" conferred upon that body by the Students Union constitution. I do not object to censorship as such, since fully realise that there must exist censorship of some sort in order to prevent the publication of actionable material. However, I do wish to make a few observations on the scope of this power and on the way in which it is administered.

The relevant provision in the Students Union constitution gives the Chairman of the Publications Committee the power to suppress not only what is libellous, seditious and unlawful, but also what is offensive (whatever that might mean) and worse still, whatever he may deem to be "in any other way unsuitable for publication." One can scarcely imagine a more sweeping power of censorship. Anything whatsoever can be suppressed on the pretext that it is unsuitable for publication. I must point out that the Press Council (N.Z.U.S.P.C.) recently recommended that censorship "should be related to likely infringements of the civil or criminal law of New Zealand, i.e., libel, obscenity, sedition." These powers go well beyond that.

I fully realise that this provision relating to censorship was inserted at the demand of a superior body. Consequently, there is nothing that can be done to restrict, constitutionally, these powers. But quite apart from this, the Executive, so I understand, is free to decide for itself just to what degree this power is to be exercised. Some clarifying statement on the part of the Executive is required. The Executive should make it perfectly clear both to "Salient" and to the many readers of it as to whether the full powers are to be exercised, or whether in practise censorship is to be confined to material which is libellous, obscene, or seditious.

It is becoming only too evident that the exercise of censorship by a member of the Executive itself is contrary to the desires not only of "Salient" but of a very large section of the student body. What is required is some provision for the administration of censorship by an impartial body. I would recommend, for this task, the New Zealand University Student Press Council. Many difficulties could be solved by the appointment, from this body, of an official censor and a deputy. For the former might I suggest Mr. David Stone—a person thoroughly experienced in both student administration and student journalism?

To recapitulate, what is desired is a statement of intention to censor only material that is libellous, obscene or seditious, and the appointment of a censor from the Press Council.

I remain, Yours Subserviently,

T. J. Kelliher.