Concordia Student Newspaper Apologizes & Retracts Article Which Quoted Anti-Israel Student Activist Who Had Previously Ran For Neo-Nazi Party

March 8, 2024

In an important win for accuracy, integrity and the truth in campus media reporting of Israel, The Link, a student newspaper at Montreal’s Concordia University, has released a major retraction and apology following an article which grossly whitewashed a hateful anti-Israel demonstration and which quoted an anti-Israel student activist which it failed to mention had previously run for the Canadian Nationalist Party (CNP), a political party affiliated with the neo-Nazi movement.

According to the retraction and apology, the article was removed from The Link’s online platform, but the physical newspaper will print a formal correction.

The Link stated that they “promptly launched the investigation after it was brought to our attention that one of the subjects interviewed has publicly endorsed ideologies that directly contradict the inclusive and respectful discourse The Link strives to promote. As such, the editorial team could not knowingly platform this individual and maintain our values as an advocacy newspaper.”

The original article, published March 5 entitled: “Concordia student kicked off campus for peaceful protest,” was written by Iness Rifay, whose sub-par reporting, including uncritically parroting pro-Palestinian talking points, has been the subject of multiple HonestReporting Canada alerts since October 7.

In her article, Rifay reported on the actions of Concordia student Ray Coelho, who, over the course of two days in November, stood on campus with a sign which read: “Israeli Military Personnel Who Served On The Gaza Border Say That The Attacks Of October 7 Were Allowed To Happen To Justify Ethnic Cleansing.”

Coelho was later escorted off campus by security.

Though Rifay described Coelho merely as a “Concordia student,” she failed to mention a far more striking biographical detail: that he previously ran in the Montreal riding of Lac-Saint-Louis for the Canadian Nationalist Party (CNP), a political party affiliated with the neo-Nazi movement.

Coelho ran in 2019 for the party, and ranked last, receiving 28 votes out of a total 84,074 cast.

Bizarrely, Coelho, despite his neo-Nazi proclivities, is not of European descent, but is the child of immigrants from India.

The CNP’s platform proposes to “revise if not repeal…the Bill of Rights and Charter of Rights and Freedoms,” and have received support from neo-Nazis.

The retraction and apology from The Link is indisputably an important step in the right direction for the student newspaper, and acknowledging shortcomings are important for any news media outlet, big or small.

While the initial publication raises serious questions about the level of rigor and research that goes into the newspaper’s articles, the retraction pointed out that in response to the incident, The Link will be making three major commitments.

First, the newspaper said it will be “conducting a thorough internal review of our editorial processes to identify and correct any gaps in our verification standards.”

Second, The Link said it would be “implementing enhanced training for our staff on the importance of rigorous background checks and sensitivity to the complex impacts of our reporting.”

And finally, the newspaper said it would be “reinforcing our commitment to serve as a platform that promotes equity, diversity, and inclusion through responsible journalism.”

If The Link follows through with its stated promises, it will make a positive difference for thousands of students at Concordia University, for whom the newspaper is its paper of record.

But if the newspaper fails to implement the corrective actions it has laid out for itself, it will not only be failing to uphold its own journalistic standards, it will be letting down thousands of students.

The Link made the right move in correcting itself, and HonestReporting Canada will continue to monitor this publication to ensure that it lives up to its stated promises.

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