Image Credit TheRebel.Media
Napoleon once said "Four hostile newspapers are more to be feared than a thousand bayonets" If he were alive today, what do you think he would say about pretty much every Canadian Journalists and beyond being united against the Alberta NDP's action of banning TheRebel.Media's reporters from the legislature? You see even in the 1700's Politicians understood the power of the press, an understanding that was not understood by Rachel Notley and her fellow MLA's.
Just to recap, here's the sequence of event that transpired as reported on http://www.therebel.media/notleyisabully:
On January 29th, our Calgary reporter, Holly Nicholas, attended a Government of Alberta briefing about the oil royalty review. Holly checked in with the civil servants running the event, said she was with The Rebel, showed her ID and went in. As usual. But about 90 minutes later, one of Notley’s staff heard Holly was in the briefing. So the premier’s office sent someone in to find her, and kick her out, simply because she was with The Rebel.
Sheila Gunn Reid, our Alberta bureau chief, was also at the royalty review, standing with other journalists, waiting for the press conference. Same thing: when Notley's people heard she was there, they kicked her out too.
These were government events. Non-partisan by nature. Places journalists have every right to be.
On February 3rd, the NDP blacklist went to a whole new level.
Justin Trudeau and Notley had a press conference at the Legislature. Sheila showed up, as she has before. But this time she was told by security she was on a "no go" list – they actually said that. When she asked for an explanation, they called the head of security who ordered her removed -- all while Sheila had her camera rolling Security asked Sheila for “accreditation”. But that’s a bogus excuse. We have reported from the Legislature before. And just a day earlier we had checked with the president of the Legislature press gallery, Darcy Henton, who confirmed there is no such thing as accreditation to cover the government of the day, in the building that houses our democracy. Any working journalist is allowed in. Rachel Notley can't pick her favourites here. The Legislature is not her private property. It’s owned by the people, not by the NDP. She's not Hugo Chavez, but she's doing her best impersonation. We weren't given a real explanation for why we were not allowed to do our jobs like everyone else in the media. We were given a cheap lie. So we had a senior lawyer in Alberta, Fred Kozak, write a calm, polite letter to the Premier’s office, describing what happened and asking the government to confirm it wouldn’t happen again. We decided to give them a week to reply – a chance to do the right thing. You can see his full letter here. Well, on Friday, we heard back – from a lawyer with the Department of Justice! It was a two-line letter. Notley's digging in her heels. Reporters at The Rebel -- and anyone even “connected” with us -- are “not journalists and are not entitled to access media lock-ups or other such events.” You can see the letter here.
Just to give you a little bit of my background, before starting this social media agency I spent a decade in the newspaper business in the Sales and Management side that included a role as Publisher of The Valley Sentinel Newspaper. Perhaps it is because of this role that I may feel a little more passionate of our Freedom of the Press rights as Canadians. Freedom of the Press is the cornerstone of Democracy. It's what separates Canada from countries like North Korea and Saudi Arabia where they do not have the same freedoms. In those countries the media does not hold the ruling Government to acts of injustice or corruption. Those countries are not nations for the people, but instead are nations for an elite few. Whether you agree with what The Rebel reports on or not (and many don't), when we give up those freedoms we are condemning ourselves to the same fate.
Some of the arguments I have heard some people saying are as follows:
1. These people never went to J School (Journalism School) - What many people may not know is that there are many well respected Journalists he didn't either. At my newspaper the only person on staff that did attend J School was the Editor. We were not the exception, but rather the norm. Those Journalists at The Rebel have just as much qualifications as many others that have the right to be there.
2. TheRebel.Media is just an online blog - For those that having been paying attention, traditional news agencies are becoming more and more an online news source and less of a printed or television medium only.
3. Ezra Levant has been sued for libel and shouldn't be allowed on that basis - If we made a rule that any news agency that has ever been sued should be denied access, then not only would that eliminate pretty much every major news agencies in Canada, it would also be a declaration of war on those that haven't.
4. TheRebel.Media is slanted right wing journalism - You would be correct, they are slanted. Just like The Tyee and the Rabble, both of whom are Accredited Press with the Federal Legislature. They are protected under Freedom of the Press and should always be. The Supreme Court Of Canada has ruled that what The Rebel, and others like him, enjoy constitutional protection.
Now for, what I'm sure was, the unintended consequence of the NDP's decision. The Rebel Media celebrated their one year anniversary yesterday and judging by the chain of events they could have easily put this story out yesterday, but I'm sure the story was held until Tuesday because by making them a martyr this is truly the best gift they could have ever received. I watched their show last night as Ezra was grinning from ear to ear. He could hardly contain his glee. In the last 24 hours they have gained more exposure than ever. They have united pretty much every Journalist across the country behind them in upholding the rights of our Freedom Of The Press. Even the CBC, who The Rebel has hammered countless times, has ran a story on them. Social media has been overwhelmed opinions, it has been trending as the top spot on Facebook and Twitter. A common phrase you hear is 'I don't like The Rebel but I support them on this'. WarrenKinsella.com, a big critic and nemesis of Ezra Levant, created this article on 'Ten Reasons The Notley Government Is Really Stupid To Bar Ezra And The Rebel' and he couldn't be more bang on in his reasoning.
This has really backfired on the Alberta Government in epic proportions and has really left them only one choice, and that is to back down and reinstate their Reporters as Accredited Press. But will they do it? They have stood firm against overwhelming criticism before on other unpopular bills, so it will remain to be seen. But if any good comes out of this, I can only hope that this will end up being served as a warning to future Politicians who try and take away some of the most basic freedoms Canadians enjoy.
President, Viral In Nature
Update: The NDP Government admits they made a mistake.