Claremont Graduate University Tries to Censor Press Coverage of Turkish Ambassador’s Speech

July 28, 2008

Universities have the prerogative to host whatever speakers and events they like, however controversial their views might be. What they don’t have a right to do is censor news coverage of those events to avoid criticism from the press. Charles Johnson of The Claremont Conservative reports on just such a story at Claremont Graduate University (CGU).

On June 10, CGU hosted a lecture by Turkish Consul General Hakan Tekin. Independent journalist Peter Musurlian filmed the event for a segment on Horizon Armenian TV and posted the video clip on YouTube. On June 23, Paul Silvio Berra, an attorney for CGU, called Musurlian and told him that he "had no authority to publish" the video and that YouTube would be told that the video was posted illegally. According to Musurlian, Berra’s bizarre argument against posting the clip was that showing the faces of the students on video constituted "harassment."

Mursurlian immediately sent an email to CGU President Robert Kitgaard, writing:

If my video is pulled from YouTube or further legal action is taken, Globalist Films will respond above-the-law, but with the full force of its wits. Its pockets are not deep. It will be an embarrassing day in America, when a powerful, deep-pocketed university takes on an independent journalist, who was simply exercising his rights as an American.

YouTube took down the video on June 25 but put it back up on July 10 after Musurlian appealed and YouTube realized the speciousness of CGU’s legal claims. CGU’s claim that it was "harassment" of individual students for a journalist to post a clip of them on YouTube is another unfortunate reminder of how colleges and universities seem to believe that "harassment" can be used as a catch-all offense for anything administrators don’t like. Real harassment is a serious crime, and every time it is misused by a college or university it cheapens the experience of those who are true victims of harassing behavior.

Mursurlian’s account of the event can be seen in the YouTube video here. All documents for the incident can be accessed here.