This article was originally published in print on the 23rd March
Lecturers at several universities, including the University of Edinburgh, have been accused of sharing Russian propaganda.
Nadhim Zahawi, the Education Secretary, announced on 14th March that there would be a “crackdown” on the sharing of misinformation by academics at universities.
Tim Hayward, a professor of environmental political theory at the University of Edinburgh, retweeted a representative of Russia to the UN, who stated that the Russian attack on a maternity hospital in Mariupol on March 9 was “fake news”.
He said: “As long as we’re still able to hear two sides of the story we should continue striving to do so.”
Hayward, who has almost 20,000 followers on Twitter, also criticised the West for not considering “Russia’s legitimate interests,” urging Western media not to publish Ukrainian propaganda, and accusing the BBC of being biased.
Hayward has previously been criticised over his role in the Working Group on Syria, Propaganda and Media, a group which created “wide and serious concern” in 2020 among diplomats and Amnesty International, after its work was used by Russia to accuse humanitarian workers in Syria of staging war crimes.
Following questions from MPs, Zahawi told Parliament that the Universities Minister, Michelle Donelan, was already “on the case”, and that universities, including Edinburgh, Leeds, and Leicester, would soon be receiving calls from the Universities Minister.
A spokesperson for The University of Edinburgh told The Student:
“The University joins colleagues in the sector in condemning the invasion of Ukraine.
“We do not comment on individual staff members.”
The university declined to comment on the government’s response to the issues raised.
Several students expressed their concern over the university’s response.
One told The Student: “The university has said the tweets were made in a personal capacity, but he still represents the university.”
Another student said: “I think the Government getting involved means it needs to be taken seriously.”
Image via armyinform.com.ua, CC BY 4.0