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November 1, 2017

City journalism student refused access to pro-Palestine event for ‘safety reasons’ despite empty seats

By Dominic Ponsford

A student journalist at City University has revealed how he was denied access to a Palestinian Society after it cited safety as a reason when he sought to report on a guest speaker from the group Friends of Al-Aqsa.

FOA’s Shamiul Joarder was speak at the event titled “Is Palestine even important?”.

Reporter from City University student news title The Howl James Walker said he emailed four hours in advance to ask if he could attend.

But when he arrived he was told the event was full. Subsequent pictures posted by the City University Palestinian Society have cast doubt on this.

Walker said: “I read about Friends of Al Aqsa and thought it would be interesting to see what the speaker had to say for a possible news story.

“These events are normally open to everyone. I was turned away at the door which they said was due to a ‘lack of space’.

“People were being let in as the speaker turned up and the door was closed. I was still waiting and then they turned be away. It didn’t appear to me that room was full.”

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The Howl noted in its report of it being denied access to the event that Henry Jackson Society fellow Elliot Miller has previously accused FOA of “fomenting antisemitism across UK schools”.

City University Palestinian Society told The Howl: “FOA are a leading internationally recognised organisation who have been campaigning 20 years for a free Palestine. Due to this, it is no surprise that we would wish to invite them to City, nor that they face a constant barrage of false accusations and are deliberately undermined by certain student societies.

“We followed all due university protocol on hosting external speakers and ensured that we complied with all security measures to make the event a success and safe for all those who attended.

“The speaker’s contribution was well received by the audience who included members from the SU. The attempt to smear our event even after it has taken place when no content has been flagged as problematic is a clear sign that the voice of Palestinian activism is being targeted on campus.

“We find it deeply problematic that you cite reports by the extremist Henry Jackson Society, in support of the allegations made in your article – the HJS is renowned for the anti-Muslim extremism as revealed by numerous academic studies.”

Now the Howl has posted a picture from Facebook which appeared to show empty seats and ample standing room at the event.

It quotes a fresh statement from City University Palestinian Society:
“As we have mentioned before, the Palestinian society followed all due University protocol on hosting external speakers and ensured that we complied with all security measures to make the event a success and safe for all those who attended. The room capacity in which the event took place, A110, is 50.

“However, the Palestinian society was only allowed 30 students, so yes, there were several empty seats. In addition, some Palestinian society committee members were in fact standing at the back, rather than sitting down, so they did not appear in the pictures. May I also remind you that you emailed us four hours before the event.

“We would like to reassure you, the Palestinian society is an open society. We welcome you and students from all departments and courses. We will be holding an event on 21st November, in which you are more than welcome to attend.

“We recommend you write an article about how the Palestinian society has been subject to restrictions from the University in regards to our freedom of speech. The attempts to smear our event and reputation as a NEW society is a clear sign that the voice of Palestinian activism is being targeted on campus.”

City University journalism students earlier this year overturned a campus ban of The Sun, Daily Mail and Express newspaper titles.


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