Want to talk to government? Too bad

This is Matt, the Runner’s political columnist. He is not happy that P.M. Harper is making even more effort to censor free speech and the media.

By Matt Law [Health Bureau Chief]

Last week, I was forced by our current government to question why I was spending thousands of dollars on an education in journalism.
If journalists can’t answer a question and get a legitimate response then what is the point of being a journalist?

The latest move to create a completely non-transparent government by the federal Conservative party and PM Stephen Harper is completely ridiculous.
Harper is effectively blocking Environment Canada scientists from speaking to the media.

I had heard nothing about this until I opened the Vancouver Sun last Monday and read an article by Mike De Souza which referenced a 2007 government document regarding new rules to keep scientists quiet.

A statement made by Andrew Cuddy after the Climate Action Network investigated the document attacked the Harper government on their policy towards climate change, “all [documents] point to the government trying to undermine climate science research,” said Cuddy in the Vancouver Sun article.

Of course, I had to Google this to find out more about it. This led me to a 2008 story in the National Post by Margaret Munrow.

“Researchers have been told to refer all media queries to Ottawa. The media office then asks reporters to submit their questions in writing. Sources say researchers are then asked to respond in writing to the media office, which then sends the answers to senior management for approval. If a researcher is eventually cleared to do an interview, he or she is instructed to stick to the approved lines,” wrote Munrow. If this isn’t a case of the government wanting media control I don’t know what is.

In fact this reeks of the George-W-Bush-style scripted town hall forums, which saw every question carefully approved by the administration before it was asked in front of a public audience.

This style of media control doesn’t even allow for valid journalism to occur. If all journalist get from asking questions is a scripted, edited and approved response then what is the point of asking the question in the first place?

If Stephen Harper and the Conservative party continue to destroy what little transparency there is in government with controversies like this or the Afghan detainee issue then Canadians need to think very carefully the next time we go to the polls.