February 19, 2016
The National NewsMedia Council believes Alberta Premier Rachel Notley made a fundamental error by banning The Rebel from parliamentary briefings on the basis that its representatives are not “real journalists”.
“I am relieved that Ms Notley has apologized for the initial decision and withdrawn the ban, but we are deeply concerned that the issue remains on the table,” said John Fraser, president and CEO of the new council.
The NNC, which represents the public and media in matters concerning the democratic rights of freedom of speech and freedom of the media, hopes former Canadian Press bureau chief Heather Boyd – deputized by Notley to investigate the issue – will state in the strongest possible terms that government has no role in deciding who is a journalist or in barring media access to public information.
The NNC has a mandate to criticize media members when they fall short of journalistic standards, but it also vigorously defends media access to, and right to report on, government and public events.
The definition of “media” and “journalist” is arguably elastic with the proliferation of online sites, bloggers and commentators. But these new media are nevertheless all part of a free and unfettered media. It’s worth remembering that the press gallery on Parliament Hill was shockingly slow at opening up to female journalists, broadcasters and photographers.
Canada’s media have never been regulated by government, and never should be. While media, by long tradition, may have partisan leanings, it is not the government who gets to decide what meets the definition of legitimate journalism.