'Other intentions hiding behind all of the cats'
Campus magazine refuses to censor writers
by Jake Roslin
Cover of March 2022 edition - Courtesy JoMRtF
The latest edition of a print publication that aims to provoke debate among students has appeared around campus. While the Journal of Matters Relating to Felines has an overarching theme of cats, it writes mostly on socio-political issues, sometimes with controversial angles. These include individual writers’ anti-vaccination arguments, perspectives on the Mormon church, and suggestions that the pharmaceutical industry creates drug dependency.
'Since the Journal’s creation, there has always been a strict emphasis on freedom of speech,' Déborah Lazreug, who writes for and formerly edited the magazine, which is an affiliated AUSA society, told The Gaudie.
'We always make sure... that we have “pure” pieces about cats such as zoological articles or animal conservation campaigns... However, we encourage our writers to talk about quite literally anything they wish to talk about and in a form that they choose – strictly without hate or violence, of course.'
Lazreug related an example where, together with one of the current editors Cécile Fardoux, also the society’s President, she wrote a 'passionate answer to a previous article by another writer, Oliver Pike. We like to enable these discussions rather than censoring a certain type of article, and ultimately, a writer.' Pike’s article had condemned female rappers as ‘dangerous role models for young people’ for using overt sexuality in their lyrics and performances, and had criticised the modern feminist movement generally.
Other controversial topics recently included by the Journal include the porn industry, the decline of Christianity, the global fur market and an article promoting squatting.
A 2021 piece envisaging a post-Covid world predicted 'Political correctness and wokeism will [also] get much worse'. 'The fact that the magazine does not have an ideological line but is composed of diverse students, provokes interesting reactions,' Lazreug suggested.
The magazine’s stance on freedom of speech comes after a long controversy and legal challenge involving the similarly AUSA-affiliated Aberdeen Life Ethics Society (ALES), in which students complained that ALES had violated AUSA’s constitutional Safe Space Policy by showing ‘highly graphic material’ at an anti-abortion meeting, attracting censure from the Aberdeen Pro-Choice Society.
AUSA had originally banned ALES under a policy that prohibited affiliation for anti-abortion societies, but ALES successfully overturned this in a 2019 legal ruling as ‘unlawful discrimination’. AUSA was forced to drop their policy and to pay substantial compensation to ALES.
The Journal of Matters Relating to Felines won Best Newcomer Publication in Scotland at the Student Publication Association (SPA) awards 2021 and the magazine’s founder, Maurice Alexander, is a former SPA committee member.
The Gaudie understands the Journal obtained AUSA funding for the first time this academic year, and Lazreug confirmed there will be one further issue this summer before a new committee takes over for 2022/23.