Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Of interest to all bloggers: Canadian news media less free: watchdog

Canadian Press:

Chris Waddell, a journalism professor at Carleton University, says another issue of news media freedom that comes to mind is the Canadian Human Rights Commission, which has come under fire recently over a couple of high-profile cases.

One of those cases involved a Mark Steyn book excerpt on the Maclean's magazine website. The excerpt was accused of promoting hatred and contempt of Muslims.

That case was tossed out, but led some to demand that the commission be disbanded.

Moreover, many Canadian journalists complain the country's freedom-of-information legislation lacks teeth.

The Access to Information Act allows people who pay $5 to request files held by the federal government.

The law requires a response within 30 days, though departments can take extensions under certain conditions. But delays of 120 days or longer are common, and even then the government frequently misses its own deadlines.

The Harper government recently nixed recommendations to expand and modernize Canada's access-to-information and privacy laws.


Mary Agnes Welch, president of the Canadian Association of Journalists, says reporters all over the country are having trouble prying even the most basic information from the federal government.

She says it takes departments days to answer routine questions, and even then replies often come in the form of email talking points.

"The amount of information flowing out of Ottawa has come to a trickle," Welch said.