Yesterday was another dark day for freedom of the press in Canada as conservative journalist Andrew Lawton was barred from covering a Justin Trudeau campaign stop in Brampton ON.
In spite of the fact that he had proper press accreditation, Trudeau’s press secretary could not provide a definition of what accreditation means in a country that doesn’t license journalists.”
And to add insult to injury, the Liberals refused to let Lawton on the media bus, stranding him in Brampton. “This is the media bus. I’m not being allowed on it, because I’m not Liberal-approved. I’m stranded in Brampton now. Will have to take an Uber to Hamilton, where Trudeau’s next event is.”
Give credit to Andrew Lawton. In spite of this happening, he won’t give up as he followed Trudeau to Hamilton and promises to keep on the election trail to follow Trudeau.
The Post Millenial reports that Lawton was involved in a prior incident alongside Sheila Gunn Reid of The Rebel, in which Chrystia Freeland’s staff attempted to block the only two conservative journalists present from access to a press conference while at a media freedom summit in the U.K. Freeland backed off on the attempt after all the journalists present refused to attend the conference if the two would not be allowed.
According to “Law Now”, Canada’s ranking on the World Press Freedom has gone through some ups and downs in the past few years, from eighth in 2015 to a low of 22nd place in 2016 before rebounding slightly to 18th in the following two years. I’m sure this latest incident will drop Canada’s press freedom ranking further than it is at now.
Canada’s media has always had a decidedly liberal bent to it but you could always manage to cut through the spin to get to the story as there were a few journalists who managed to actually report a story with actual facts.
The same liberal media howled long and loud about how former Prime Minister Stephen Harper was distrustful of the press and had limited press availability, and what seemed to many Canadians, a pack of slathering hyenas, going in for the kill.
“The Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms provides a guarantee of freedom of expression and press freedom,with some provisos and grey areas. While free speech may be legally restricted as a means of ending discrimination and promoting gender equality and social harmony, the definition of the punishable crime of hate speech remains vague. Though the Charter promises “freedom of thought, belief, opinion and expression, including freedom of the press and other media of communication,” much has changed over the years. “
The advent of social media and the 24 hour news cycle has accelerated news to new heights where information is available almost immediately, along with many tries and attempts by governments to regulate on-line content for “accuracy”, “fake news” and “disinformation.”
“Denis Rancourt, a researcher with the Ontario Civil Liberties Association (OCLA), said via email that the press freedoms that once existed in post-World War II Canada and the U.S. have dissolved over time. This dissolution is due to the introduction of heightened government oversight, greater corporate mergers and globalization, such that “the overriding threat to press freedom for corporate journalists is near-absolute absence of professional independence.”
Human Rights Watch, an independent organization focusing on the protection of individual rights, acknowledges that access to information is on the rise, thanks to the growth of the Internet. At the same time, it notes that “efforts to control speech and information are also accelerating, by both governments and private actors in the form of censorship, restrictions on access, and violent acts directed against those whose views or queries are seen as somehow dangerous or wrong.” This profoundly affects journalists, who must often put themselves in conflict with governments in order to obtain – and disseminate – information. “
When Justin Trudeau was elected in 2015, the liberal media was happy with his “openness toward the media along with his cabinet’s “media availability”, with a member of the Parliamentary press gallery saying this at the time: “the difference between Mr. Harper’s media strategy and Mr. Trudeau’s approach is “a huge divide. It’s night and day—night having been the past 10 years.”
Oh, how times have changed. Fast forward to 2019 which saw the SNC-Lavalin and the Admiral Norman scandals dominate the headlines in Canada and around the world. From Trudeau on down, media availability dried up and the Liberals were going to ground in damage control mode.
But, the biggest factor in the war on truth in Canada has been the Liberal’s 600 million dollar media bailout, which included the head of a national union that declared war on Conservatives, which has all but guaranteed that any fairness and freedom on what is being reported on Election 2019 has been torpedoed. Countless media pundits spoke out against this bailout but it all fell on deaf ears.
Fast forward again to when the Election 2019 writ was dropped and it’s become an all-out war on the truth.
Combine that with the Liberal war on conservatives on social media, the new election laws – which have already generated a lawsuit saying that free speech is under attack and Trudeau’s signing the Digital Charter, where he said this: Social media platforms must be held accountable for the hate speech & disinformation we see online – and if they don’t step up, there will be consequences,” and freedom of the press and freedom of expression for Canadians has sunk lower than Trudeau’s popularity after the recent “Blackface” scandal.
These actions have been condemned roundly by members of the press, advocates for free speech and ordinary Canadians who are fed up to the breaking point with this government’s repressive tactics, especially when it comes to suppressing information, banning those who share opposing thoughts on social media and now, it seems, stopping an accredited journalist from doing his job – to hold Justin Trudeau accountable for his four years in office.
Memo to Team Trudeau: this is NOT the way to get media ‘on your side’, or win friends and influence peoplekind.
Every Canadian journalist should be worried about their journalistic integrity being quelled at the hands of this government and that’s why it’s important to support journalists like Andrew Lawton and others who are not part of the media bailout that are doing their best to hold this government accountable on their record and to do what journalists do – be fair and impartial and tell the truth.
This kind of abuse of power was what our parents and grandparents fought against in WWII but it seems that those who choose to ignore history are repeating it at the expense of the freedoms all Canadians hold dear to them.