Commentary  Response to the editorial board’s statement of retraction

To the editorial board of the McGill Daily,

We are writing to you to express discontent and disappointment regarding the recent statement of retraction by the editorial board. As loyal readers and supporters of the Daily, we have recently noticed a general pattern within the work put out by your paper of a more liberal, watered-down version of the anti-oppressive politics the Daily claims to uphold. The recent statement of retraction regarding Professor Ibrahim was the last straw.

We want and need the editorial board to know that their statement reads as:

  1. An apology to Ibrahim. The statement literally closes by stating that the Daily “apologizes to parties negatively affected by such errors.”
  2. Delegitimization of the allegations and accusations lodged against Ibrahim.

Please do not try and explain the courage it took to publish that article in the first place. Please do not try to explain the difference in language between accusation and allegation, or the realities of  being legally charged with sexual assault. This was not clearly communicated in your statement, which ignored the multiplicity of systemic barriers that so often prevent abusers from being held accountable through the judicial system.

We are uninterested in the legal liability that the Daily faces in this situation– of course, there is the risk of being seen as slanderous. However, this does not justify the complete and utter sloppiness of the statement of retraction. A lawyer’s objective will always be to serve the best interests of their employer in a risk-averse way. It is entirely unsurprising that their advice to you on this matter would have erred on the side of caution and conservatism. You should have taken this advice into consideration, and weighed it against both your knowledge of the context at play here and your sense of journalistic and moral integrity.

How likely is it that Ibrahim would have further harmed his own reputation by following through on his threat of legal action against a small independent student newspaper, when every major paper in the province has already reported extensively on the allegations against him? How likely is it that he would win that case? As a supposedly anti-oppressive publication, the onus is on the Daily to assess the risks that they take with their values in mind. In our opinion, your Editorial Board has failed to do this in a meaningful way.

There are so, so many better ways you could have gone about this. If this retraction was made under legitimate legal duress, you could have chosen to publish any threats of legal action that the Daily received. You could have consulted members of the McGill community who were subject to threats from Ibrahim as well (such as the SSMU). You could have retracted the language but acknowledged that the lack of legal action in no way delegitimizes or undermines the years of allegations put forward against Ibrahim. When you wrote “we apologize for not using the correct wording in this article,” in that context, it was not incorrect. An accusation is an accusation.

Your statement of retraction is, frankly, embarrassing. It is careless, thoughtless, and makes the Daily less trustworthy than it has ever been. Your publication used to speak up against abusers in the face of legal risk– what happened? At its core, this lawsuit is about silencing those who speak against sexual violence and the daily has since had an immense role in supporting these voices and criticizing those abusing their power. This retraction is ultimately adhering to the demands of censorship to protect abusers, at the expense of survivors.

The purpose of our statement is not to taint or compromise the Daily’s reputation- you are doing that just fine by yourselves. Historically, marginalized students have looked to the Daily to represent our interests in a just and critical way, and we are of the opinion that this is no longer possible. Our email is as concerned members of the community who wants the urge the Daily’s edboard to follow their mandate of anti-oppression in a way that stands up for marginalized students.

Signed,

An ad hoc collective of survivors and their allies

 

Read The McGill Daily editorial board’s response here.