Chapman University Places Restrictions on Student Reporting at George W. Bush Event

TOPSHOT - (L-R) Former US First Lady Laura Bush, former US President George W. Bush, First Lady Michelle Obama, and President Barack Obama attend the opening ceremony for the Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture on September 24, 2016 in Washington, D.C. / AFP / ZACH GIBSON …
ZACH GIBSON/AFP/Getty Images

Student reporters at Chapman University refused to cover a campus event featuring former President George W. Bush after they were told by the university and Bush’s team that their reporting would have to be reviewed prior to publication.

According to a report by the Orange County Register, student reporters at Chapman University turned down an opportunity to sit in on a campus event featuring former President George W. Bush.

The students were told that they would only be permitted to publish a report on the event if it had been first approved by the former president’s team. Additionally, the students would not be permitted to take photos or videos at the event. As a form of protest over the restrictions, the student journalists refused to attend the event.

In an editorial column, the student newspaper board argued that the policy was “unethical” and contradictory to America’s “free press” values.

Words cannot begin to describe how unethical this is. It goes against everything we swear to uphold. Free press means it comes directly from the hands of journalists to the eyes of the readers. It doesn’t go through a third-party PR source that modifies it to comply with their demands. It goes straight to the people. That’s what free press is all about. That’s why cases such as New York Times Co. v. United States exist. To ensure that newspapers aren’t restricted by prior restraint. Because, in a way, that’s censorship.

Chapman spokeswoman Jamie Ceman defended the restrictions, arguing that the students were invited to attend the event as guests rather than as reporters.

“The Bush organization agreed to let The Panther students attend the event as guests, not as press, so they could experience the evening,” Ceman said. “Being that they would not have been there as members of the press, it was a Chapman University decision to hold them to the same standard we held ourselves, and we asked that they comply with our agreement to share any content prior to publishing.”

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