This is just scary: Battle heats up between media and Prime Minister's Office
What does Stephen Harper think he's up to?! Regardless of a government's political stripes, I have issues with restricting media access to elected officials. It's not like they're paparazzi camped outside politicians' homes - they're reporters asking questions when politicians leave political meetings! Here are some excerpts from the article:
Among a series of media access restrictions already imposed or being contemplated, the most inflammatory is a plan to bar reporters from staking out cabinet meetings, where they can ask departing ministers about their portfolios.
In order to stop the practice, the PMO is suggesting it will keep the weekly meetings secret. At a minimum, it hopes to force reporters to wait a floor below the cabinet room, so that only ministers who want to speak - or have permission - will face the media.
The battle of wills came to a head Monday morning over - of all things - a photo-op of cancer stricken youngsters with the Canadian Cancer Society giving daffodils to Harper in his office.
Twelve Parliament Hill security officers, triple the usual contingent, lined the short hallway to Harper's office door to make sure no reporters entered. Sure enough, four reporters attempted to force the issue before an unusually large phalanx of news cameras.
None of the prime minister's staff emerged to explain the situation or deal with the media, despite repeated requests to do so.
Other planned access changes include:
- Withholding basic announcements of visits by heads of state and premiers.
- Issuing in-house photos of closed meetings between public officials, such as visiting premiers and heads of state, rather than allowing news photographers access.
- Refusing to use the national press theatre, where simultaneous translation is provided, in favour of a more prime ministerial podium in the House of Commons foyer.
- Making lists of media wishing to ask questions during availabilities, then picking and choosing which reporters get to ask those questions.
- Allowing only technical staff, but not the customary two "pool" reporters who relay events to the wider press gallery membership, into photo-ops.
Sandra Buckley, Harper's Director of Communications, says:
"I think this prime minister has been more accessible, gives greater media scrums and provides deeper content than any prime minister has in the last 10 to 12 years." ... "I don't think the average Canadian cares as long as they know their government is being well run."Well, I care!
More articles & commentary:
- Attica! Attica! (Maclean's - Inkless Wells)
- Media Unions Condemn 'Frightening' Tory Limits on Journalists (Yahoo!/CP)
- Harper Defends Right to Secret Cabinet Meetings (Canada.com)
- Reporters Face Off with PMO over Limits on Access (Globe and Mail)
- Controlling the Messengers (Peace, order and good government, eh?)
- Taking the Hill (Toronto Star - azerb blog)
Technorati tags: Stephen Harper, media, free speech, politics, Canada
Posted in: politics on March 29, 2006