Canadian legal group warns Trudeau: Respect freedom of the press
OTTAWA, June 5, 2020 (Justice Centre for Constitutional Freedoms) — The Justice Centre for Constitutional Freedoms (jccf.ca) has issued a warning to Prime Minister Trudeau that excluding alternative media from his press conferences is a violation of the Charter-protected “freedom of the press and other media of communication,” as set out in section 2(b) of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.
The letter is a response to the Prime Minister’s staff denying access to Canadian journalist Keean Bexte of Rebel News to attend a press conference at Rideau Cottage on May 27, 2020. While other journalists were admitted to the press scrum and allowed to ask Mr. Trudeau questions, Mr. Bexte was manhandled by security and physically removed from the grounds.
“The Charter protects Vox, the Huffington Post, Vice, Rebel News, the Tyee, Rabble.ca, Press Progress, True North, Ricochet, Lifesite News, and North 99, whether as ‘the press’ or as ‘other media of communication’,” stated lawyer John Carpay, president of the Justice Centre.
“The Charter protects the right of all media, including independent and less mainstream news organizations, to participate actively in acquiring and disseminating information, regardless of what bias these organizations might possess, or whether they engage in advocacy or not,” explained Carpay.
“Rebel News is not known for its sympathy to Justin Trudeau or to the Liberal Party. This is precisely why denying Mr. Bexte access to the Prime Minister’s daily press briefing at Rideau Cottage leaves the impression that the federal government is deliberately trying to shield itself from criticism and accountability,” stated Carpay.
“A private organization has the freedom to include or exclude individual journalists or media outlets at its own event, in its sole discretion. In contrast, the Charter mandates that the Prime Minister of Canada, when acting in his capacity as a government official at a news conference or press briefing, does not have this discretion,” noted Carpay.
“Dictators of the Right and of the Left, around the world, both in the past and currently, violate press freedom by favouring sympathetic journalists and media outlets over those whose reporting is hostile to the government. The Charter recognizes freedom of the press as a cornerstone of Canada’s free and democratic society,” concluded Carpay.
The Justice Centre’s letter concludes by asking Prime Minister Trudeau to issue a public apology to Mr. Bexte, and to start respecting the Charter’s “freedom of the press and other media of communications.”
Published with permission from the Justice Centre for Constitutional Freedoms.