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Editorial: Election Code misinterpretation allows for censorship

By Editorial Board

May 8, 2014 12:00 a.m.

The Undergraduate Students Association Council Election Board has already shown itself prone to misinterpreting its own code. But when a misinterpretation of that code is used to justify media censorship, it is dangerous and inexcusable.

On Monday, the USAC Election Board Chair Anthony Padilla warned presidential candidates that they could face sanctions if they participated in a segment on the Daily Bruin’s news and culture radio show, Long Story Short. The candidates, fearful of reprisal, withdrew from the interview.

Padilla cited a portion of the Election Code that requires the Election Board to approve any event that takes the form of a debate. That clause requires all candidates be allowed to participate and an Election Board representative to attend.

Applying that clause to The Bruin’s broadcast reporting is wholly misguided.

In the case of Monday’s planned interview, each candidate would have had a chance to answer questions regarding their candidacy separately. In a closely moderated setting, there would be nothing constituting a debate or even any on-air interactions between candidates.

But even if there had been an opportunity for candidates to interact, Padilla would still be in the wrong, using his authority over debates to intervene. His loose interpretation of the code would essentially prevent two candidates from being in the same room because there may be an opportunity for exchange.

But the fact that his actions limited the Bruin’s newsgathering operations pushes his reading of the code from simply absurd to actually detrimental.

The Election Board’s attempt to stand in the way of UCLA’s largest independent media outlet threatens to set a dangerous precedent. It even borders on infringement of basic principles of free speech.

In an email responding to The Bruin’s concerns about his actions, Padilla said the Election Board believes that the debate clause in the code “is meant to ensure an even playing field that allows all candidates’ voices to be heard – not just a select few that the media might decide to listen to.”

Not only did Padilla sidestep the fact that all three presidential candidates were invited to participate, but his language also clearly indicated a willingness to interfere with news coverage of the elections.

The Bruin filed a petition to the USAC Judicial Board Tuesday morning in order to set the record straight. We hope the Judicial Board takes a stand on behalf of independent media coverage.

Regardless, The Bruin will continue to do all it can to furnish the student body with consistent, timely and complete coverage of its student government elections.

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