Harper Tunes Media Out!!
Prime Minister Tunes Media Out
Published: Wed., March 29, 2006
Memo to Prime Minister Stephen Harper: don't bother sending us cheesy photos taken by government flacks of your closed-door meetings with visiting world leaders -- we won't use them.
Ditto for government-generated news releases of other events from which reporters are barred. They'll hit the newsdesk garbage quicker than you can say "no comment".
As they move to feed Parliament Hill media "in-house photos" and PR releases -- plus hold cabinet meetings in secret, control which ministers will speak publicly and dictate which reporters get to ask questions -- Harper and his communications team appear to be adopting Soviet-style "information technology".
Under communism, the Moscow government decided what appeared daily in Pravda (Truth) and Izvestia (News). The policy didn't fool many. As Russians joked, the result was "no news in the Truth and no truth in the News."
Harper's no communist, but he appears to believe he can control the flow of news . . . in Canada . . . in the 21st century.
Monday was a classic example of the policy misfiring. As Harper holed up in his office and received daffodils from a group of children with cancer -- normally a dream photo op and human interest story for a politician -- 12 security officers outside his door barred reporters from attending.
The result? TV footage and newspaper stories focusing on the journalists denied access and virtually nothing on Harper's touching meeting.
The parliamentary press gallery has filed a series of complaints with Harper's office about his media policies, but his communications director, Sandra Buckle, dismisses them saying: "I don't think the average Canadian cares as long as they know their government is being well run."
That's the point of the protest. Reporters ask questions on behalf of Canadians and force governments to justify their policies. If access is limited, how will Canadians know if the government is doing its job?
Harper's policy will deliver a couple of guaranteed results. First, the media will assume he has something to hide and will go digging for dirt -- with possibly embarrassing results. Second, the opposition parties can expect a lot more print and air time in Ottawa this spring.
Any comment on that, Mr. Prime Minister?
© The Leader-Post (Regina) 2006