Friday, May 26, 2006

Stephen Harper and other "Ottawa Stuff"

Stephen Harper is in my hometown Victoria today. And it's busy. I wonder if he will also be challenged by local journalists about his stand not taking questions from the National press gallery anymore.

This issue is an important one. Apart from Harper's (unproven) conceived bias against him, he has not given any reason why it is that the Prime Minister's Office wants to chose who gets to ask the question. What are his objectives with this policy? To ignore tough questions?

In the meantime many abroad get little (but important) snippets of the current feuds. Here are some of the articles about the press feud: Gulf News, United Arab Emirates - Malaysia Sun, Malaysia - Sydney Morning Herald, Sydney Australia. Also reactions to the "new Canadian view" on the Kyoto Protocol: Die Tageszeiting, Germany. And how about the fake news about Iran? NRC Handelsblad, Netherlands. In other words, our country is noticed again, but it's far from good news. Is this the image of Canada we want others to have about us?

Stephen Harper and the National Press GalleryHarper thinks that this press-feud is just "inside Ottawa stuff", but that time has long gone; things get noticed everywhere, and that's a good thing! We (, the people) have to be able to scrutinize the government. Harper can not be taken serious by calling the National Press Gallery biased, and doesn't offer any proof either. The argument should be reversed: "Why is Harper so biased against the National Press Gallery?" Linwood Barclay's editorial gives (funny) insight where Harper's perceived bias comes from.

A skeptical press, yes, Canada's press is quite skeptical about the Conservative party. And calling journalists biased while not offering any proof is not a clever thing to do. I hope that Canadians start to realize the importance of the issue. This is not a simple "inside Ottawa stuff" issue: We need to know what's going on in Ottawa. No media can be trusted better than a skeptical media.


William E. Demers said...

I think the thing that is being misunderstood is that the Prime Minister is not a servant of the media. If the PM's office wishes to arrange a media conference then that is understandable, but it should not be the other way around.

I agree completely with you that we should be able to examine and evaluate Harper's choice to take this stance, as previous Prime Ministers (especially Liberal ones) used the media to boost themselves as best as they could.

I don't have problems with a Prime Minister (or any politician for that matter) who wishes to get media attention, nor do I think we should misunderstand the intentions of those who do not want the media to call the shots.

Erik Abbink said...

Hello William, thank you for your comment. You are right, he's not a servant of the media. But he is a servant of the people. And people have questions, lots of valid (and less valid) questions.

Now, it would undoable if everybody on their own would start firing questions to Stephen Harper; he would not be able to answer them all. But therefore we have the media. Not a biased one, but a skeptical one, scrutinizing people in power; people like Stephen Harper.

I cannot imagine what Canada would look like when the media is simply a servant of the party in power. History (more specifically Germany during the Third Reich) tells us this can result in a much to powerful control of the masses through dissemination of party propaganda.

Love or hate the media, it's an essential part of a well functioning democracy.

HearHere said...

Whether their egos allow them to admit it or not the Ottawa Press Gallery is not THE media.

They are a small cadre of stringers for media outlets who happen to have Federal politics as their beat. In all perhaps 100 reporters whose only entrance to this club is a paid membership.

Some good insights at Stephen Taylor's Blog

There are also thousands of reporters and media outlets across this country who can and do cover Federal politics.

Erik Abbink said...

There are also thousands of reporters and media outlets across this country who can and do cover Federal politics.

But can they scrutinize Stephen Harper on a regular basis?


Their physical distance does not give them the same access as the National Press Gallery. And, by the way, who's requests to interviews with the PM would be granted and who's ignored?

If Stephen Harper is serious about having a more accountable and transparent government, he should act on it; questions by all members of the National Press Gallery contribute to his own mandate of accountability and transparency.

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