NTU accused of ‘discrimination’ against student journalists

(Photo courtesy of CNA)

TAIPEI (CNA) — Students at National Taiwan University (NTU) on Thursday held a press conference to criticize what they say was “discrimination” against student journalists by university authorities who denied them access to public meetings.

Among their accusations is that the school has gone back on its promise to treat student media on an equal level as regular news media, and has targeted student journalists who questioned the remarks of high-level university officials.

Their grievances date back to March, when at a university affairs meeting, representatives voted to ban the livestreaming of the event and to forbid reporters from participating, according to NTU’s student association, which organized Thursday’s press conference.

The university affairs meeting, which is held at least twice every semester, is where high-level NTU officials, staff and student representatives vote on school initiatives.

Following the decision to ban reporters, NTU decided that it would hold a press conference after the next meeting, on June 13, to address the media.

That was when the school’s discrimination against student journalists became apparent, according to the student association.

On that day, a group of student journalists were denied entry to the press conference, and when they confronted NTU’s Executive Vice President Chou Chia-pei (周家蓓), Chou pledged to rectify the situation.

Chou agreed at the time that student journalists would “receive all press invitations and statements released by NTU” and be added to the messaging groups NTU used to communicate with reporters.

NTU will “ensure the rights of student journalists” in the future, she promised.

According to the NTU student association, however, student journalists have not been invited to join the messaging groups, and the school has only sent press invitations to some student publications, not all of them.

Another incident that occurred after the June 13 meeting also reflected NTU’s intent to interfere with student journalists and their work, the association said.

It alleged that a student journalist, who questioned the remarks of a high-level NTU official in an article, was contacted by the official’s office after the story was published.

In the call, the student was told that the official in question wanted to “have a little chat”. Though the meeting was later canceled, it shows NTU’s intent to pressure student reporters, the association said.

It added that these incidents indicate that NTU is failing to treat student journalists as regular journalists, and called for the school to adhere to its promises of ensuring the rights of student reporters.

The school and the students should come up with guidelines that outline which student publications should be recognized and the reporters who work there should then be added to the school’s media messaging groups alongside regular journalists, the association said.

A petition set up by the association on Tuesday has already garnered signatures from Democratic Progressive Party Legislator Fan Yun (范雲) and former Education Minister Cheng Jei-cheng (鄭瑞城).

The Taiwan Association for Human Rights and the Taiwan Association of University Professors have also signed the petition.

In response to the student association’s requests, NTU emphasized that the school has consistently and actively protected freedom of speech on campus.

The access given to student reporters to university affairs meetings has remained unchanged despite the ban on reporters, and the school has adhered to its promise to send press invitations to student reporters, NTU said.

The school started doing so on July 1, but no student journalists have showed up at any of the eight events they were invited to, NTU said.