Salient. An Organ of Student Opinion at Victoria University College, Wellington N.Z. Vol. 21, No. 6. May 28, 1958
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.
A Reply . . .
|1.||Executive proposes, as I understand it, "to exercise censorship over all material likely to infringe the civil or criminal law of New Zealand, i.e., libel, sedition, obscenity."|
|2.||Executive retains the right of negative censorship to prevent the publication of errors in fact.|
|3.||That is the extent of Executive's desire for censorship.|
|4.||The question of an "impartial censor" will be considered by the Executive at its next meeting. At this stage, however, I cannot see any advantage of an appointment from the N.Z.U.P.C. It is doubtful whether Executive has the power to allow censorship by one who, not being the publisher of "Salient", has no legal responsibility for "Salient".|
B. C. Shaw.
A Complaint . . .
The latest action of the executive regarding censorship (which led to that apology so symbolically set in a black border) makes it necessary for all students to think about the future of "Salient".
It seems clear that we are in for a period in which the heavy hand of censorship will strangle criticism before it gets a chance to appear in print.
Somehow the executive appears to be liable for the content of the magazine and one can understand that in that case the more timid souls are likely to be cautious to the extent of being cowardly. What other reason can there be for the rule forbidding correspondence concerning the cafeteria?
But why should the executive be responsible for the magazine? Because of the subsidy it grants? Because of its lofty position? Whatever the reason, it seems to me that it should be possible for students to bring out their own magazine, quite separate from our august student leaders.
True, that would be a little more difficult. But there is no reason why such a magazine should not have a modest start, for instance, as a stencilled sheet. The easiest part, of course, would be the name. I suggest that it be called "Guts".
Meanwhile students are entitled to know just who voted for or against just what motion concerning the printed apology and censorship. Does the Executive (at least one member of which will read this letter before it appears in print—if it does) dare to let students know just who voted for what? That is not a rhetorical question and the executive is invited to supply the answer in this issue. Does it dare to do that?
Or did the Executive by any chance discuss the censorship question in committee? Did it? Why? And if it did, does it still dare to let us know how the voting went? And who originated that rule about no criticism in "Salient" of the cafeteria? May we know that, too? Was a vote taken on that? How did that vote go? And which of the comrades acts as censor? Are any principles laid down guiding him? What are they?
And while we are at it, is it possible (legally, constitutionally, etc.) to grant a subsidy to "Salient's" management and to let that management be completely responsible for the magazine subject only to a provision ensuring that the grant does not disappear in individuals' pockets? Can that be done? Will it be done?
Another Reply . . .
|1.||Mr. Schellevis' comments are somewhat emotional and tend to obscure the issues.|
|2.||The Executive is responsible for the magazine because it is the publisher of the same. A senior law student will be happy to explain the legal basis of this to your contributor.|
|3.||The vote on the apology question was carried on voices, and Miss Pointon and Mr. O'Brien abstained. The vote on the censorship motion was carried nem con. on voices. No division was called for by any member of the Executive. There seems little point in "daring" the Executive to publish this information as it is readily available in the copy of the minutes posted on the Executive notice board in the main foyer. If your contributor is unaware of these minutes, he is at liberty to consult the official minute book in the Student Union of lice.|
|4.||I indicated in a letter to the Editor of "Salient" (published in the last issue) which persons were present during the discussion on censorship.|
|5.||The censoring of "Salient" is done by the President of the Union or by his nominee. No guiding principles are laid down, but see my further reply to the Editor in this issue. I have read the copy for this issue.|
|6.||It is not possible to grant a subsidy to "Salient" and to let that management be completely responsible for the magazine.|
B. C. Shaw,
"This Happy Breed . . ."
After some weeks our Exec, has at last decided to "review" the Editor's period of editorship. On Tuesday, May 27th, these strong and silent men, amidst an aura of dignified solemnity, will pontificate on the fate of Your Editor. "Salent" expects that every man will do his duty and accept unquestioningly the ex-cathedra pronouncements of this august body. Should Exec, in its infinite wisdom and understanding (not tempered with mercy) decide that freedom of the press is undesirable and that Exec, narrowness and intolerance is in the best interests of the student body, then bow to the will of your "betters"; submit unconditionally; join in the hate sessions, blame Emmanuel Goldstein, and shout "Long live Big Brother!"