LIARS – International newspaper falsely accuses TCS of being the mouthpiece for a 'racist' Cambridge University

25 April 2013

The News International, Pakistan’s largest English-language newspaper, said yesterday that The Cambridge Student was part of a “racist campaign” organised by Cambridge University. The article alleges that “racism in Cambridge is flourishing“, and describes TCS as “a mouthpiece of university authorities known for attacking ethnic minority students.”

These claims are untrue. The News International’s assertion that the BNP and the English Defence League “has a lot of support based in Cambridge” is simply not supported by facts. When the EDL marched in Cambridge in February, their numbers were dwarfed by local and student anti-racism campaigners, as TCS reported.

TCS has consistently campaigned against racism in the city of Cambridge. When Stephen Goldspink, a candidate for the English Democrats (a group who have been described by Unite Against Fascism as “a new home for the BNP”), stood for election as Cambridge’s Police and Crime Commissioner in October, TCS ran a front-page story condemning his party’s highly controversial views, under the headline ‘Would You Vote For This Man?’

Though many student papers are censored by a university or a students’ union, The Cambridge Student is, and always has been, an editorially independent newspaper. Were this independence ever to be compromised, the TCS team would refuse to go to print.

The News International has accused TCS of launching a “smearing campaign against the NUS Black students officer Aaron Kiely” At TCS, we refute this. The article in question simply reported complaints made about Kiely, including many from his constituents from the borough of Thurrock, where he is a councillor. These complaints had already been reported in the regional and national press.TCS did not launch a smear campaign.

The News International’s coverage appears to be based on comments made by Cambridge University Graduate Union (GU) President Arsalan Ghani, in an attempt to discredit TCS’s coverage of his time as president. Ghani’s abuses of his position will be familiar to readers of TCS. The News’s article was written by Murtaza Ali Shah, a journalist who has published several stories over the last year in support of Ghani, and featuring extensive quotes from him.

Since September, TCS has revealed that: Ghani was directly involved in the disappearance of over one thousand punds from the GU; in March, GU secretary Kirstine Szifris left her position, explaining that Ghani and GU International officer Xin ‘Bruno’ Jin had “harassed” her until she had no option but to resign; Ghani insists that colleagues refer to him as “dear honourable President”‘ and sign off their emails, “in obedience”, but addresses them inwriting as “worthless persons” and “enemies of democracy.”

The News International claims that TCS “later stepped back” on our reporting. We have not stepped back. To quote our editorial of February 14th: “We stand by our journalists, we stand by our reporting, and we stand by our story.”

On January 31st, TCS reported that GU International Officer Xin ‘Bruno’ Jin was accused of physically assaulting CUSU Welfare & Rights Officer, Chris Page. Page said that Xin had thrown him against the wall of the GU building. Both police and the University proctors investigated the alleged assault but these investigations were dropped due to insufficient evidence.

Last term, Xin ran against Richard Jones as a candidate for next year’s GU Presidency. In an election debate on Wednesday 27th February, both candidates were asked by CUSU Chair Mark Chonovsky: “Are you currently under disciplinary investigation for having assaulted a current GU officer?” Xin replied, “I think this is one for me.”

Now, The News International alleges that Chris Page “has been recently investigated by the Cambridge police to racially and physically attack an international officer of the union” – turning the original claim on its head. Yesterday, in a status update on Facebook, Chris Page described this claim as “a total and utter lie, as it was I who was victim of assault. I am a person of mixed race origin, who has been subjected to racial abuse in the past, and I am sick to death of being accused of, among other things, racism and abuse towards Ghani.” Page continued: “Ghani’s claims are fabricated and disgusting”.

Xin hoped to succeed Ghani as GU President, but was disqualified by the Elections Committee when over a thousand emails were sent out to students asking them to vote for “my buddy Xin Jin.” These emails are understood to have been sent by members of Xin’s campaign team, having hacked students’ Hermes accounts. One student told TCS: “Someone has taken my password and sent the spam emails for voting I did not even know the candidate”.

When approached for comment, Cambridge University Students’ Union refused to dignify The News International’s allegations with a response. University Press Officer Tim Holt has responded to the “bizarre article”, explaining that “The Cambridge Student is an independent publication.” Holt said: “The article is total fabrication”.

Tristram Fane-Saunders & Zoah Hedges-Stocks – Editor & Associate Editor

Update 5 May 2013:

Arsalan Ghani has spoken out against The News International‘s reporting, explaining that Murtaza Ali Shah took his words out of context, and that he was not the source behind The News International‘s allegations. He told TCS: “I gave my honest and direct opinions on the questions they asked. But I disown the rest of the published content. My words were taken out of context and I want it to be made clear that I never accused anyone of racism, violence or conspiracy in the international media – including Chris Page and other members of the GU Executive or GU staff. Myself, Chris and others have been working together in difficult times in the GU to resolve the mess created before us.”

The News International has made serious, and apparently unfounded, allegations about the conduct of GU Administrator Jennie Hastie, claiming that: “It was reported recently that Hastie abused the Asian cafe supervisor in the Union recently, which resulted in the closure of the Union’s Cafe.” TCS contacted Shah to ask where the alleged abuse had been “reported,” but as yet Shah has given no reply. Ghani has confirmed that he has not heard about any such report.

According to the GU website, the cafe was closed “due to low sales.” A spokesperson from Cambridge Blue Sandwiches (which owns the GU cafe) confirmed this, explaining to TCS that the cafe was closed “purely because there’s not enough footfall there at all.” They went on to explain that the cafe will re-open in October, to take advantage of the influx of new students.Though Hastie was unavailable for comment, University Press Officer Tim Holt told TCS that she “was not even there when the decision too close was taken as she was on leave,” stating that there is “no substance at all in this allegation.”

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