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Lawsuits, Harper hurt press freedom

by admin October 27, 2009

Lawsuits, Harper hurt press freedom

by admin October 27, 2009

This year, journalists in Canada are less free to report, and face greater threats to press freedom than they did last year, according to Reporters Without Borders (RSF). Canada placed 19th on RSF’s Press Freedom Index 2009, down from its rating as 13th freest country for press in 2008.
The drop was largely caused by a variety of lawsuits the country’s journalists have recently faced. Most prominent among these is the case of Daniel Leblanc, the Globe and Mail reporter who refused to reveal the identity of an anonymous source who helped break the sponsorship scandal.
Cases like this have have a negative impact on the perceived freedom experienced by Canadian Press, said RSF Canada Vice-President Dennis Trudeau.
“The issue is the freedom to keep your sources anonymous. You have to look at the Leblanc case, which turned out to be a great series of interest to Canadians.”
Trudeau said the index’s main purpose is to create an awareness of ways in which journalists are repressed.
The index, published annually by the Paris-based group, ranks countries across the world on the basis of how much each country’s press is… affected by government suppression, self-censorship, financial pressure, and physical threats.
European countries dominated the list as usual, with Scandinavian countries Denmark, Finland, Norway, and Sweden tied for first alongside Ireland. Although Canada still finished 1st in the Americas, the drop has some journalists worried.
“I think it’s a matter for concern,” said Mary Agnes Welch, president of the Canadian Association of Journalists. The secrecy of the Harper government is largely to blame, according to Welch.
“The kind of information that comes from Ottawa has totally slowed to a trickle in the last year and even before that,” said Welch. “It really is probably the single most egregious problem in Canada. It’s become, frankly, damaging for democracy.” The Prime Minister’s Office did not return requests for comment.
While this year’s standings has some distressed, the ranking of 19th is not far off from Canada’s historic average. In 2007 it ranked 18th, and placed 21st in 2005.
Mike Gasher, the director of Concordia’s Journalism program, argued that there were bigger problems than lawsuits and Harper’s secrecy.
“We’ve gone through periods like this before. The greatest threat, to me, is corporate concentration.” Even new media, said Gasher, posed little threat to increasingly corporate controlled traditional news organizations. “Independent websites don’t make money, at least not in Canada. When people go online for news, they still go to the Globe and Mail and CNN.”

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This year, journalists in Canada are less free to report, and face greater threats to press freedom than they did last year, according to Reporters Without Borders (RSF). Canada placed 19th on RSF’s Press Freedom Index 2009, down from its rating as 13th freest country for press in 2008.
The drop was largely caused by a variety of lawsuits the country’s journalists have recently faced. Most prominent among these is the case of Daniel Leblanc, the Globe and Mail reporter who refused to reveal the identity of an anonymous source who helped break the sponsorship scandal.
Cases like this have have a negative impact on the perceived freedom experienced by Canadian Press, said RSF Canada Vice-President Dennis Trudeau.
“The issue is the freedom to keep your sources anonymous. You have to look at the Leblanc case, which turned out to be a great series of interest to Canadians.”
Trudeau said the index’s main purpose is to create an awareness of ways in which journalists are repressed.
The index, published annually by the Paris-based group, ranks countries across the world on the basis of how much each country’s press is… affected by government suppression, self-censorship, financial pressure, and physical threats.
European countries dominated the list as usual, with Scandinavian countries Denmark, Finland, Norway, and Sweden tied for first alongside Ireland. Although Canada still finished 1st in the Americas, the drop has some journalists worried.
“I think it’s a matter for concern,” said Mary Agnes Welch, president of the Canadian Association of Journalists. The secrecy of the Harper government is largely to blame, according to Welch.
“The kind of information that comes from Ottawa has totally slowed to a trickle in the last year and even before that,” said Welch. “It really is probably the single most egregious problem in Canada. It’s become, frankly, damaging for democracy.” The Prime Minister’s Office did not return requests for comment.
While this year’s standings has some distressed, the ranking of 19th is not far off from Canada’s historic average. In 2007 it ranked 18th, and placed 21st in 2005.
Mike Gasher, the director of Concordia’s Journalism program, argued that there were bigger problems than lawsuits and Harper’s secrecy.
“We’ve gone through periods like this before. The greatest threat, to me, is corporate concentration.” Even new media, said Gasher, posed little threat to increasingly corporate controlled traditional news organizations. “Independent websites don’t make money, at least not in Canada. When people go online for news, they still go to the Globe and Mail and CNN.”

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