Total Pageviews

Wednesday, June 22, 2016

Canada lost respect. Can the mainstream media clean itself up?


By Duncan Pike
new report from the global press freedom watchdog, Reporters Without Borders (RSF), describes the tenure of former Prime Minister Stephen Harper as a “dark age” for journalism in Canada, citing his hermetically-sealed style of government and the shameful state of our access to information system. The report notes that current Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has spoken strongly for media freedom but “only time will tell” if he follows through on his promises.

RSF’s assessment, from its annual World Press Freedom Index released on April 20, 2016, highlights how the Canadian public’s right to know was systematically undermined by the previous federal government’s penchant for secrecy and control. Canada fell ten spots from 2015, now at 18th place in the global ranking of press freedom, while the United States rose eight places to 41st. The report describes a “deep and disturbing decline in respect for media freedom at both the global and regional levels,” as attacks on journalists rise and governments and private interests around the world seek to limit public debate and media pluralism.

The Index measures countries on a number of different criteria—including media pluralism, independence, transparency, legislation and abuses—reflecting the variety of ways that press freedom can be threatened. As RSF notes, while freedom of the press in Canada is guaranteed in our constitution, journalists face a plethora of barriers to their ability to properly scrutinize those in power. This means that press freedoms increasingly exist “solely on paper.”

It’s useful to look back on how Canada got to this point. CJFE Board Member and former President Arnold Amber took a comprehensive look at Stephen Harper’s record on free expression and transparency in the 2014-15 Review of Free Expression in Canada, published on World Press Freedom Day, May 3, last year. Amber recounts the litany of charges against the Harper government, including:
  • Fights with official watchdogs like Auditor General Sheila Fraser and Parliamentary Budget Officer Kevin Page, who sued the government for internal numbers detailing how budget cuts would affect public services;
  • An abysmal record on access to information, including and an increase in rejected and censored requests;
  • The muzzling of government scientists and civil servants; and
  • The centralization of government information and communications through the Privy Council Office.

No comments:

Post a Comment