Freedom of the press in Canada

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Case of Russian media outlets

On May 14, 2019, Global News and CBC published their investigations of Global Affairs Canada’s decision to deny accreditation to Sputnik, RT, Ruptly, RIA Novosti and TASS correspondents to cover the February 4th Lima Group meeting in Ottawa.

The information obtained by Global News through Access to Information law contains approximately 40 pages of emails and documents connected with the decision-making process in Global Affairs Canada and its aftermath. The Canadian news agency notes that the above-mentioned Russian outlets “generally function as state propaganda sites,” although it couldn’t find “evidence of that being part of the official decision-making process.” However, responding to an additional Global News’s inquiry, Adam Austen, the press secretary for Freeland, suggested that it could have been the case anyway. “Our objective is to provide access to media outlets that do not deliberately distort facts or spread propaganda and misinformation,” said Adam Austen quoted by Global News. In turn, CBC cites the Press Gallery president Pierre-Vincent Foisy who seems dissatisfied how the matter was resolved by the government. According to him, TASS meets the accreditation criteria. And there have been no complaints about the agency’s permanent correspondent in Ottawa who is a member of the Press Gallery.

“Canada should give an example of what free press is if we want to boast to ourselves about a free press,” stated Pierre-Vincent Foisy quoted by CBC.

On February 4, 2019, following the incident, the Embassy of the Russian Federation in Canada issued their official comment via Twitter, calling this decision of the Canadian Foreign Ministry “highly reprehensible and shameful.” Russia’s diplomats perceived this choice as politically motivated. They saw it as the deliberate targeting of specific news agencies which “runs contrary to Canada’s declared adherence to the freedom of speech.” Now, Canada is expecting reciprocal actions against Canadian media outlets in Russia.

On February 4, Sputnik published an article on its website quoting Richard Walker, Canada’s foreign ministry’s spokesman. As reported by Sputnik, “the agency was denied accreditation because it ‘hasn’t been cordial’ with Canadian Minister of Foreign Affairs Chrystia Freeland in the past.” Canadian officials denied that this quote was accurate, accusing the Russian news agency with false reporting.

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