The Government is Once Again Attacking Independent Media

The state of Canadian media continues to decline in this country thanks to government attacks on media freedom. In the past three years, the Liberal government has gone after the online press with gusto. Bill C-11 and Bill C-18 were perhaps the most extreme examples, with Canadians now unable to view news stories on Meta and Instagram because the government believes they “need to pay their fair share.”

The organizations hurt most by this decision were local and independent media organizations that do not receive government subsidies, as their revenue streams are tied to analytics and advertising that is highly boosted by sharing on social media. Those media organizations that receive federal government funds must pass a board of professors and former journalists who deem the organizations reputable, as covered previously in the April 2022 story, Beware the Orwellian Nightmare.

The irony of all of this is that CBC would likely fail in this litmus test of fact-checking. For example, the now infamous clip of Nil Köksal making the baseless accusation on January 28, 2022, that the ‘Freedom Convoy’ protests must have been Russian-supported because of Canada’s support for Ukraine by then Minister of Public Safety Marco Medicino. The CBC also sued the Conservative Party of Canada during a federal election, with one of the plaintiffs being CBC Power and Politics host Rosemary Barton, who takes ear-to-ear smile selfies with Justin Trudeau and asks him only the most softball of questions compared to her treatment of previous Conservative leaders like Andrew Scheer and NDP leader Jaghmeet Singh. The Liberal Party of Canada and the Cabinet, which make up the current government, have their preferred media. That much is clear: it’s the media they pay for.

More shocking than that, the federal government continues to silence media under the guise of tech giants “paying their fair share.” The PMO and other senior government officials continue their assault on the press they don’t consider orthodox. Point in the case are two media organizations that consistently come under scrutiny and attack from the current government for attempting to do their jobs: Rebel News and True North. Both these organizations are divisive; that much is not up for debate. They are right-leaning, and their manner is often in-your-face journalism, but they are still media. In a free society, they should be allowed the purview to exercise journalism as much as any other media organization or freelancers.

In what has become a long-standing feud, Chyrstia Freeland tried to block both the Rebel and True North from getting into a 2019 press conference that she was hosting in the U.K. Ironically, it was titled Defend Media Freedom Conference. The Rebel and True North were the only conservative-leaning organizations in the scrum; thankfully, other journalists stuck up for their colleagues, and they were allowed in.

During the 2019 campaign, Trudeau had Andrew Lawton of True North barred from joining the PM’s travelling press delegation under the guise that the journalist wasn’t accredited. The federal government had previously accredited Lawton, as had the British government and the U.S. Republican Party for the 2016 RNC. As Lawton would write in an op-ed for the Washington Post, he continued to follow the Liberal campaign on his own rather than with the press group he was denied access to and was detained by the police for “following everybody around.” Clearly, the Liberal Party knew who he was and was trying to put up roadblocks because he was a journalist they didn’t like.

The Liberal Party feud with the independent press escalated again in the last two weeks with two more attacks on Rebel News. The first is a ruling on lawn signs promoting the 2019 book Libranos by the CEO of Rebel News, which were deemed illegal because they interfered with the federal election rules. No such court decision was made with other signs that could have influenced the election, such as the 2015 “Harper Man, it’s time for you to go” signs that were seen across the country during the campaign. The case shows a clear bias towards the current government.

More disturbing is the treatment of Rebel journalist David Menzies by the RCMP security detail around the Deputy Prime Minister. On January 8, 2024, Menzies was trying to scrum Chrystia Freeland about why the federal government had not listed the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps of Iran, one of the main funders and supporters of groups including Palestinian Islamic Jihad, Hamas, and Hezbollah, as a terrorist group. The group murdered 57 Canadians when it shot down Ukrainian Air Flight 752. Rather than answer the question, Menzies was quickly detained under the guise of “assault” for bumping into an RCMP detail officer. The video is disturbing to watch because it is so blatant. Menzies clearly bumped into the security detail officer by accident. If the standard under which he was arrested were held to any other situation, anybody who rides public transit at rush hour could be detained for assault.

That Freeland didn’t answer the questions is one thing — the media has come to expect nothing less from the current government, or if such a response is received, it is a smorgasbord word salad of nothingness. What we cannot accept in a free society, though, is the detaining of journalists for doing the job of journalism. The government has shown its face in the past by trying to regulate the independent press into submission, but detaining and assaulting a journalist, as the RCMP has done, is the move of tyrants like Vladimir Putin or Nicholas Maduro.

Whether Rebel News or True North are considered “far right” by the government and other media organizations is irrelevant in the context of the listed events. The Charter of Rights and Freedoms Section 2 states there is freedom of association and freedom of the press. The Charter does not have a “far right” clause to be used casually against media that is critical of the government because it is the media’s job to hold the government accountable in a free and democratic society.

It is hard to believe this is happening in a country like Canada. If a sitting Conservative government had done the same to a CBC reporter or a left-leaning organization like Richochet Media, the academic and journalistic community backlash would have been immense. As citizens and journalists, it’s important to realize that it’s not about the politics of David Menzies but about the power being used against a known reporter, regardless of his politics.

Knowing that, as of January 2024, the Deputy Prime Minister of Canada is okay with having journalists arrested for doing their job puts her in the same camp as the tyrants she claims to be so morally opposed to. All Chyrstia Freeland had to do yesterday was ask the RCMP to release Menzies or ignore him and walk away; instead, she took the path of a tyrant, and all Canadians should be worried.

Photo: @RebelNews_CA