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‘Right-wing’ Adelaide Uni Union fires On Dit editor in shocking move

Habibah Jaghoori, who has been outspoken throughout her term on a number of issues ranging from the Union’s conservative leadership to the Israeli occupation of Palestine, was removed last week.

An On Dit editor has been removed from office by YouX (formerly known as the Adelaide University Union) after publishing an article in support of Palestine following Israel’s most recent attacks on Gaza.

Habibah Jaghoori was removed last Tuesday in the most recent YouX Board meeting, where she was brought before the Student Media Tribunal and found to have breached the Board’s constitution.

“I’m not surprised that this happened,” Jaghoori said. “Our right-wing Board has censured so many people for having different political opinions.”

She was brought before the tribunal at the recommendation of the YouX Student Media Independent Committee, which completed an investigation on her conduct following the publication of her article.

Although the findings of the investigation show that Jaghoori’s article, which has now been removed, was not in breach of any rules concerning student media specifically, the Board had determined that her “conduct and behaviour” following its publication was in breach of YouX’s “objectives” as an organisation.

“Despite numerous opportunities to clarify her position and dispel any misinterpretation, she has continued to use language in public forums that can be clearly construed to support actions that could threaten the welfare of students,” the YouX Board said in a statement.

“As an elected representative she is subject to the same organisational values as all other representatives and employees of YouX.”

Prior to the tribunal, Jaghoori was allegedly denied access to the findings of the investigation and was thus inhibited in her ability to defend herself. She was also allegedly not given further explanation or concrete examples as to the nature of the accusations against her, regarding putting students’ welfare at risk.

According to Jaghoori, the  tribunal was attended by a number of non-board students from the same Progress and Young Liberals factions as the YouX executives, and she was repeatedly accused of being “racist” by speakers.

She also described how the YouX Board told her “it’s not our business” when she raised her concerns about a number of death threats she had received.

“It was a hijack,” she said.

Although the original article was published on 8 August, the proceedings against Jaghoori only began in early September after it caught the attention of “zionist and conservative media”.

“When it blew up, it caught the attention of the Acting Vice-Chancellor, who sent out an email to all students,” she said.

An email from Acting Vice-Chancellor Anton Middelberg was sent out to all Adelaide University students.

“I wrote about Palestine because Palestine needs to be talked about,” Jaghoori said. 

“Advocating for the freedom of Palestine is not only for guerilla fighters, politicians and the left. It is for all those who value and want freedom and justice in the world. It is an integral working class demand. 

“I recoginse the slogans used in my article can be deemed as harsh, but I also know that the time for respectability politics is long gone and holding genocidal and apartheid states to account is here and now,” she said.

The remaining On Dit editors also put out a statement in support of Jaghoori, describing the Board’s actions as “shameful” and demonstrating “contempt”.

“We view this as exceptionally malicious given that circumstance of the editor, a Muslim woman, having to justify herself in the face of defenses of a genocidal and apartheid state that regularly uses racism and islamophobia as a justification for its ethnic cleansing and violence,”  the statement read.

“The YouX Board is setting a dangerous precedent by forcing student media editors to go out of their way in demonstrating reverence for opinions and voices that threaten and/or diminish them.”

The tribunal falls under the powers of YouX’s Student Media Independent Committee, which was created this year towards the start of Jaghoori’s term as an On Dit editor.

“The student union board, the Media Committee and the Independent Media Committee have significant oversight over the work we do,” the remaining On Dit editors told Honi for a separate article

Honi spoke to Jaghoori recently for a separate article while she was still an editor. It should be noted that while she was an editor, she emphasised how precarious her circumstances were as a YouX Student Media Director – she was not permitted to say anything critical of the Board while she was employed by them.

YouX’s media policy also stipulates a number of limitations on elected office bearers, including On Dit editors, in their communication with other media, such as needing the President’s approval before participating in interviews, needing approval for the content of statements to the media, and approval for the publication of media releases.

“It’s a form of censorship,” Jaghoori said at the time. “The last time I spoke to Honi Soit, I was threatened with sanctions.”

She also described how her honorarium had been reduced this year towards the start of her term, which was the subject of her first argument with the Board.

“Ever since I can remember, it’s always been a $5000 honorarium. It’s only this year that it’s been cut,” she said.

“I think it’s tied to the conservative leadership of the Board and their decisions at the moment.”

In a statement to Honi, NUS Education Officer Luc Velez said: “The student media context is important here – On Dit (and indeed, Honi Soit) were created to give voice to students in response to mainstream media’s misrepresentation of our interests. They have always been deliberately political.

“It certainly looks like the Liberal-dominated YouX is punishing and censoring left-wing and anti-colonial perspectives. This is an attack that goes against students’ interests, and I stand in solidarity with On Dit and Palestinian activists,” Velez said.

Jaghoori’s removal comes in the context of persistent allegations of “undemocratic” behaviour from the current YouX Board, who recently defunded the Adelaide University SRC after it produced the SRC Counter Guide for Welcome Week, as well as materials promoting the National Union of Students (NUS).

The Board also allegedly blocked the SRC’s orders for antifascist materials after stickers containing neo-Nazi messaging were found during O-Week.

This also comes in the context of broader attacks on student unions for taking pro-Palestine stances, including the University of Melbourne Student Union (UMSU) being forced to rescind a motion calling for Melbourne University to sever its ties with Israeli institutions, and the University of Sydney condemning its SRC for passing a motion in support of the BDS campaign.

“This is part of a very concerning trend in student spaces. Activists who support Palestinian causes are facing attacks from the right. We’ve been seeing this happening all over, in Melbourne, in Sydney and now in Adelaide,” Velez said.