Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Without Freedom of the Press in Canada How Can we Call Ourselves a Democracy?

Much has been written about China and their media's struggles to obtain information, and reprisals for sharing that information.

However, what we have neglected in this country for the past four years, is our own media's struggles with the very same thing.

There is an interesting paper written by undergraduate Jeffrey Wartman, entitled Freedom of the Press and Democracy in China. He begins:

Many people have different ideas about the true nature of democracy. One school of thought believes that democracy is the act of the people electing representatives to make decisions, held accountable through elections, for the populace. Others believe that democracy is rule by the people, in which the will of the populace is the almighty sovereign. Yet , while to many people the word democracy may mean many things, there is no doubt that if democracy is truly going to exist, there must be a free flow of ideas, both majoritarian ideas and those in the minority, so that people may make proper judgments when choosing their leaders. “The role of the press stands out in every major democratic transformation in modern time” (Xiaogang 212). Without a free press, a free flow of ideas and a minimal tolerance of dissent, the Democratic ideal of governance by the people can not occur if the people do not know much of what is occurring. In the People's Republic of China, some citizens understood this.

'Without a free press, a free flow of ideas and a minimal tolerance of dissent, the Democratic ideal of governance by the people can not occur .... '

Interesting words those. However, while written about China, how exactly does Canada differ now?

OK, our media is not being imprisoned, but they are being banished, which could often mean their careers. As a result they live with the constant fear that they will suddenly remember that they are journalists, and ask a question not on the list.

David Akin discusses this after being held hostage on a plane in Newfoundland.

Harper's detractors may think we should just give the metaphorical finger to such directives from the PMO but, at one photo opp while we were here, a reporter who did just that and asked a question at a photo opp, despite warnings not to, was immediately warned that, if she continued, reporters would no longer be allowed to attend such photo opps. That would not be good for our access would be curtailed even further.

PMO staff also made veiled threats that that individual's organization might suffer further sanction -- all because of the impertinence of asking a question. If you are a media organization in Ottawa, these are no small consquences. If the PMO doesn't like you, you can bet that every cabinet minister is going to give you the cold shoulder, too. I know, I know: Those who hate Harper say, tough! Ask away and bring on the consequences! Well, ... maybe: But if we did yell at him and disrupt his schedule and annoy his rather large RCMP bodyguards, what would we get for our trouble?

Akin is rather dismissive, by suggesting that it is 'those who hate Harper' who object to this.

But you don't have to hate Harper. You don't have to dislike Harper. Heck, you don't even have to know who Harper is; to know that this is simply wrong.

There was an editorial in the Cornwall Free Press recently entitled The Stephen Harper Government Burning the Edges of Democracy – Flirting with Facism in 2010

... Without true freedom of the press, and true freedom of speech unspeakable horrors can be brought down on society.

We need to really look at issues like this. It’s not about partisan politics because frankly there have been moments in Liberal Governments that are in the same family of some of these behaviors, but never in Canadian history have such a total combination of Undemocratic energies been focused.

'Never in Canadian history ....'

So why is our media allowing this? Why are we allowing this?

I often wonder what student in the not too distant future will write of Canada's loss of democracy ... of the rise of our dictator .... of our plunge into fascism.

Who will write of the time when Canada was a free and independent nation, proud of it's sovereignty and joyous in it's so-called second rate status.

And what will the final chapter be?

I guess we are the only ones who can write that.

More Postings on Harper's Control of Information


  1. I am aware "La Presse" (Montreal French daily) removed a cartoon of the (female) Quebec Education minister depicted wearing. It was reposted in Voir (I cannot post the link here). Many reader comments critical of Israel are also erased from reporters' blogs.

    After the furore that surrounded the Mohammed cartoons published in Denmark, are we going to autocensor ourselves in Canada, an outright cop-out?

    Also, there is a deliberate attempt to silence anyone that criticizes the human violations committed by Tsahal in Gaza (use of white phosporus ordnance in two documented instances) and also to cut funding to independent human rights organizations that gather data on those violations, to place pawns on the bords of directors, etc. Rights and Democracy is a (now) well-known example but it is not the only one.

  2. http://www.voir.ca/blogs/jose_legault/archive/2010/02/12/caricatures-de-la-semaine.aspx This is the cartoon I refer to above.

  3. This country is in serious trouble, I'm afraid.