Journalists ask for inquiry into media concentration

Two well-known Canadian professional journalist associations called on Members of Parliament to launch a full parliamentary inquiry into the effects of media concentration at CanWest Global Communications Corp.

The Canadian Association of Journalists (CAJ) and the Quebec Federation of Professional Journalists (FPJQ) sent a letter to all members of Parliament and senators, denouncing a ÔÇ£disturbing pattern of censorship and repression of dissenting viewsÔÇØ by CanWest.

Calling CanWestÔÇÖs practices a “a threat to Canada’s democratic traditions,” the letter, signed by CAJ President Rob Cribb and FPJQ President Anne-Marie Dussault, criticizes CanWestÔÇÖs controversial decision to run national editorials in all of its daily newspapers.

“With concentration of media ownership in Canada at an unprecedented level, safeguards are needed to ensure diversity of opinion in Canada’s news media,” the letter says. “The time has come for a full inquiry into this dangerous situation.”

The move comes on the heels of the Newspaper Guild of CanadaÔÇÖs (NGC) call on CanWest to ÔÇ£restore editorial peaceÔÇØ in its newsrooms. The NGC sent out a release on Jan. 16, saying ÔÇ£Over the past few weeks CanWest Global has created havoc among its newspapers. It has suppressed the right of local editorial opinion, killed a column by an aboriginal writer in Saskatchewan, eliminated a long-running column from the Windsor Star, triggered the resignation of two freelance columnists in Halifax and imposed a gag order on the entire editorial staff at The Gazette in Montreal. This has got to stop. It’s not only wrong but it is bringing ridicule on the entire newspaper industry in this country.ÔÇØ

There has been a firestorm of commentary about the national editorials in various newspapers, including editorials from the Montreal Gazette, the National Post, the Globe & Mail and the Toronto Star.

CanWest has said that their national editorial policy does not restrict freedom of expression at all. It is an newspaper ownerÔÇÖs right to express their views in their own publications, including in editorials, they have said.

In a December speech in Oakville, Ontario, CanWest Executive David Asper called the critics of the national editorials ÔÇ£bleeding heartsÔÇØ who are engaged in ÔÇ£childish protest.ÔÇØ

“I can say to our critics and especially to the bleeding hearts of the journalist community that, ‘It’s the end of the world as they know it . . . and I feel fine,'” said Asper.