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Griffin interview leads to NUS condemnation

A university student newspaper has come under fire for publishing an interview with British National Party leader Nick Griffin.

In the Leeds Student article 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 signed by 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."

The editor of the student-run paper, Lucy Snow, has written a blog post, published on The Guardianwebsite, defending the decision to publish the interview, arguing 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 claims it is not only a question of free speech, but one of legitimacy. 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."

Snow has since made it clear that the editorial staff at Leeds Student have no intention of giving in to NUS demands, telling The Journal: "I am confident we made the right decision to publish and will not be backing down. 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 is clear 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".

Credit: The Journal

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