Losing “Progress” candidates contest student election results; call for On Dit censorship

On Dit can today reveal that three losing ‘Progress’ candidates, Harnoor Bandesh, Muskaan Gupta, and Angel Wadhawan contested the results of Education, Disability, and Ethnocultural Officers on the grounds that On Dit’s reporting on the AUU General election constituted a “defect in the conduct of the election which […] materially affected the results.”

Excerpt from email to the RO and Election Tribunal

The trio contested the tribunal’s previous findings that On Dit remained outside the jurisdiction of the RO, a per Clause 13.1 of the Rules Concerning Student Media, which states:

“Except where required by law or sanctioned by this Rule, the AUU shall not interfere with the editorial independence of the AUSM”.

In response the trio stated that:

“[they] believe the RO should have directed the Student Media Director to remove and stop reporting all election related matter”,

as they believed there existed an inconsistency within the election rules.

To give a brief background on their appeal, earlier this year, the AUU passed election rule reforms, stating that organisations or services that have received funding by Student services and amenities fees (SSAF) were banned from commenting on any candidate or group of candidates via social media.

It was argued that On Dit should not be allowed to comment on these matters as our publication is funded through SSAF.

Excerpt from email to the RO and Election Tribunal

The crux of the trio’s appeal centred on the argument that clause 5.3 of general election rules superseded 13.1 of the Rules Regarding Student Media, as it states:

“Where another rule of the AUU is inconsistent with these Rules, the latter prevails and the former to the extent of the inconsistency is invalid. The inconsistent rule remains valid for all other purposes”

Following this, they trio outlined the articles they took particular issue with, finally suggesting that On Dit’s posts were “malicious and harmful”, and “unfairly impacted [their] image”, as well as suggesting that it “brought unfair disadvantage on [them] and resulted in [them] losing the positions.”

On Dit would like to note that Bandesh, Gupta or Hadwan are not mentioned in any of the articles listed, which cover topics including the conduct of the right-coalition on the AUU Board, defamatory remarks made by SRC President Ong, as well as our update on the exclusion of a Connect candidate prior to the election.

Excerpt of the trio’s email detailing articles they believe “materially affected the results”.

On Dit was initially asked to remove or edit our articles by the RO, which we refused, arguing that it set a dangerous precedent to prohibit student media from commenting on elections, and that if On Dit were subject to this rule, the AUU itself as a SSAF funded organisation would be too, theoretically prohibiting it from publicising any election material online.

Excerpt of On Dit’s initial email response to the RO during election week

All the contested articles remain published.

2020 election results have been verified and new Office Bearers begin their terms tomorrow (December 1st).

The Election Tribunal has since dismissed the trio’s appeal.

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