Wednesday, March 26, 2008

 

CanWest explains why they haven't reported more about Basi-Virk. Oh, and ... uh, about Glen Clark ... and ...

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GOVERNMENTS FALLING SHORT DEFENDING PRESS FREEDOM

Editorial
Vancouver Sun - Wednesday, March 26, 2008

A free press can, of course, be good or bad, but, most certainly without freedom, the press will never be anything but bad.

-- Albert Camus

The Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms guarantees freedom of conscience and religion, of peaceful assembly and association, and of thought, opinion and expression, including freedom of the press.

Because the media are an important means of communicating thoughts and ideas, the federal department of Canadian Heritage explains on its website, their right to speak out is protected under the Charter. It goes on to explain that these freedoms ensure Canadians can express their ideas, gather to discuss them and communicate them widely to other people. They are important to the success of a democratic society like Canada, it adds, where people must be free to discuss matters of public policy, criticize governments and offer their own solutions to social problems.

These are lofty ideals the government has put on public display, and which it and its provincial counterparts, their agencies, bureaucrats, police, regulatory bodies and tribunals often fail to live up to.

That's why the media end up in court fighting for their constitutionally guaranteed right to gather and disseminate information.

Our affiliate, the National Post, announced on Tuesday that it intends to take its battle for press freedom to the highest court in the land. It seeks leave to appeal to the Supreme Court of Canada a ruling by a lower court that would force it to surrender confidential source material related to a decade-old political scandal known as Shawinigate, which purported to link then prime minister Jean Chretien to a mortgage from the federal Business Development Bank of Canada for a hotel adjacent to a golf course he partly owned.

{Snippety-do-dah*} ...

Diligent reporters uncover things that governments may find uncomfortable. Sometimes the information comes from sources who could be at risk if their identities were revealed. Journalists would rather not operate this way; they'd prefer to source everything explicitly. They'd prefer full disclosure by public bodies so protecting sources wouldn't be necessary. But that's not the way it is.

Instead, our institutions are addicted to secrecy. The Vancouver Sun has spent thousands of dollars and endless hours in court fighting publication bans, filing freedom of information requests and fending off government intrusion in order to keep readers informed and to safeguard press freedom. Too many major stories -- from accusations of conflict of interest against former premier Glen Clark, to the Air India inquiry, to the Robert Pickton murders, to the investigations into actions by former government aides Dave Basi and Bob Virk -- have been subject to restrictions on journalists trying to do their jobs.

Until governments and courts recognize and uphold the fundamental freedom of the press enshrined in the Charter, the media must continue fighting to preserve it. And we will.

http://www.canada.com/vancouversun/news/editorial/story.html?id=e7ef152e-1bfd-4515-82cc-b910f78f9130

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*See Pacific Gazette glossary.

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PROTECTED SOURCES AND A FREE PRESS

Times Colonist -- Wednesday, March 26, 2008

The public has a right to know what governments are doing, the background to decisions and the reasons elected representatives do the things that they do. The open flow of information is crucial to our democracy.

At times, however, politicians or senior government officials choose to keep information from us, or believe in all sincerity that the public would not have an interest in, or is not entitled to, facts that could raise questions or fears about government operations.

That is where the media, which works on behalf of readers, listeners and viewers, comes in. We serve as a watchdog on institutions, including all levels of government, as well as the politicians who make the decisions. Most members of the public don't have the time or access to pay attention; the media attempts to do that for them, asking the questions they would ask and reporting what we learn.

We believe it is our duty to cover the news -- including news that the government would rather keep from the public. The media is providing, of behalf of the public, a valuable service whenever it opens a window that a government official would choose to keep locked.

The classic example of the media's role was the Watergate scandal, which eventually resulted in the resignation of U.S. President Richard Nixon in 1974.

Here in Victoria, the Times Colonist has sought to bring to light government action -- or inaction -- on many issues, including the treatment of children in care. That attention, along with the public response, helped lead to the Hughes inquiry, major shifts in government policy and, we hope, improvements for children and their families.

The Times Colonist, Vancouver Sun and the Province are continuing to fight for access to the search warrant documents relating to the 2003 raid on the provincial legislature.

[Huh?? They are?? Strange we haven't heard about that. - BC Mary]

Politicians and government officials do not always want to reveal what they know. Freedom of information legislation, though flawed, helps pry open some doors. Reporters also rely on people who provide, on a confidential basis, copies of documents or other information dealing with the workings of government.

Government officials should recognize that everything they do might end up in a news story. But politicians and bureaucrats can still get upset when yesterday's bad decision becomes today's front-page news. Sometimes, they strike back and a fight ensues. {Snip} ...

A free press is a vital part of our democracy, and any attempt to restrict that freedom must be challenged. As a result, the National Post's lawyers are seeking leave to appeal to the Supreme Court of Canada.

That appeal is essential. If the Ontario court's ruling is allowed to stand, every media outlet in the country will face more trouble getting to the truth about what the government is doing. It would become more difficult to convince potential whistleblowers to tell us what they know.

As a result, the public will know less about what is really going on in government offices.

We believe the public has a right to know. It is essential the Supreme Court of Canada review this decision.

http://www.canada.com/victoriatimescolonist/news/comment/story.html?id=47a02257-c6d2-40ca-a19c-2f573ad0235d

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Comments:
Good morning Mary

This article doesn't make a whole lot of sense to me.

We have here a newspaper going the full mile to protect their sources and the freedom to report the news. Of course they are using Chretiens case to fight but then on the other hand they are using the law courts to sue The Tyee and Mair. And I beleive there is another lawsuit happening somewhere on the same type of thing. These cases are being brought forward even though the respondents retracted all their statements and removed them from the Web. This smacks of attempts to supress.

Then of course we have the BC Rail case, arguably the biggest case in the history of this province, which is not getting the reporting in the MSM that it should. When there are reporters in the court we rarely see anything in the Local news. What we do see is a lot of womens' fashion or reporting on Brittaney or Oprah or whatever. One of the papers even has massive front page coverage on sports. Not just Canadian but from around the world. Why is this space used for things like sports and fashion and not the headline news instead of putting it in their appropriate sections? Therein lies my problem. They are not consistant. We know for a fact that at least one reporter has tried to get a segment on TV on the Rail case, but it wasn't allowed. So now we have a small increase in reporting this case and my observation has been that reporting on this case has only increased since the MSM was seen to be duped by Government Officials. Even so, there are reporters who seem to be relying on others to report on this case but use their own spin, usually vaguely saying it is the NDP's fault.

Now, I agree that the freedom of info acts in this country have been gutted by governments of the day. But I don't understand how they have been able to get away with it. The preamble to the BC Freedom of Information Act basically prohibits witholding information from anyone by using exhorbitant prices to get the info. Therefore the government would be breaking its own law. Where are the people who should be policing this farce. Why do we have to go to the Supreme Court.

And basically the newspaper is only seeking to protect its own sources. When in my opinion they should be there to open up these Acts so we can all do our own due diligence. We not only pay government wages by taxation we pay the newspapers wages by purchase and advertising.
 
Hmmmmmm.....

Is somebody denying the VSun the Freedom to actually send a reporter to the Courtroom everyday?

Is that what they are suggesting?

You know, I get the feeling that certain editors are getting the feeling that folks are starting to pay attention and that they have decided to start a little deflector spin to try and keep all the egg off they're faces.....


(and to conflate the way the Press dealt with Mr. Clark and Mess'rs Basi's and Virk's case is downright bizarre - I'm with gary e. above....the VSun Editors have are spouting nonsensitude)

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Sheesh.....I have a glossary?.....where the heckfire did I put that thing?

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Trying to stop, but....here's hoping that some Anon-O-Mice do a little recording of Mr. Palmer's little TeeVee show tonight so that anything particularly interesting can be uploaded into those crazy YouTubianToobz.

OK, I'm done.

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gary e, there's much to what you say, and thanks for your comment.

I wondered if you found yourself revising, revising, revising as you wrote. I know I did when preparing just that simple headline ... getting it to say what I wanted it to say without ... here we go again ... without the risk of barretry.

Where I found The Vancouver Sun difficult to accept is where they blame "governments" for the lack of press freedom. Fair enough, I guess, but ... but ...

If CanWest has been having such a terrible time getting the news published, because of "governments", why didn't they tell us that important story? We need to know about these fundamentally important issues.

But ... but even more difficult to take is where Vancouver Sun cannot admit that "governments" as we know them in B.C. and federally are very much the result of CanWest's own approval and endorsement.


I'll just add this: remember those Basi-Virk transcripts which Justice Bennett ordered (January 4/08) released to the public? Transcripts which were finally available last week? After repeated requests by Robin Mathews and Bill Tieleman?

Robin called at Criminal Registry yesterday. There are about 250 pages. And guess what? They are available, all right, @ $1. a page.

More important: Nobody ... NOBODY else has been in to pick up copies.

So you read it here first. OK?

And my guess is that CanWest will probably never report it at all. Ever. That's what's hard to take.

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Doggone right you have a glossary, RossK, and "Snippety-do-dah" is my favourite.

It's sorta like Victor Borge's audible punctuation ... except it's better, because Snippety-do-dah can set the theme for an entire presentation. And especially for hare-brained presentations.

And btw, thanks for that, too!

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I have to add my agreement to the group.

We have documents in the possession of the Supreme Court and yet no one from the media (save for Bill) has attempted to request them.

We have documents that the court has agreed to release but they are asking for a fee.

I can assure you that if the Van Sun applied to the court for the waiver of the fee or even the ability to take detailed notes from the transcripts, (removing the need for copies) it would be granted.

It is shameful for the Sun to add the Leg Raid case to the list where they claim to be fighting for the public. The should include the fact that they should remember there claim that there is "no news" coming out of the trial.

Written words on $1 newsprint are worthless. Actions are worth a 1000 times more.
 
PS.

It's not as if CanWest is fighting FOR press freedom, exactly.

Yes I do understand why a nervous or vulnerable source needs to be shielded.

But here's another one of today's Vancouver Sun headlines: NATIONAL POST APPEAL COULD DEFINE MEDIA PROTECTION OF SOURCES, sub-heading: Ontario Court of Appeal ordered newspaper to hand over confidential document.

It's not quite the same as fighting to open doors so that the press can best report issues of vital public interest.

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Many thanks, JD.

Thanks too for the tip about media being entitled to access the transcripts ...

Robin will be writing about the transcripts soon, I think.

I must pay tribute to Robin Mathews for those 250 pages, which might not have become available under any circumstances if he hadn't kept asking from Day One, for access.

Remember his first day in court (it's recorded here, way way back in time)?

Remember how badly Robin in his 3-piece pin-stripe suit was treated even by one of the lawyers who -- next time around -- had the good grace to seek Robin out and apologize for his rudeness?

That transition from rudeness to "Yes, here are the transcripts but you'll have to pay!" could be some kind of metaphor, you know.

I wish and hope and pray that Robin is writing a book about the Basi-Virk / BC Rail case.

He should. Don't you think so?

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Heartily agree with the above comments.

Quite the self-congratulatory piece by the VSun with a certain whiny nature to it.

As gazetteer notes is somebody denying the VSun the Freedom from sending reporters to the Courtroom everyday?.... To which I might also add is someone denying the VSun "the Freedom" to send reporters to report on the daily sittings and debates in the legislature when it is in session?

I dunno but somehow this article brings to mind that old quote:

"If you have time to whine and complain about something then you have the time to do something about it."
 
Hi Mary,

This canwest finger pointing seems to have a familiar ring to it. Yes, the Campbell government must be the most secretive government in bc’s history, but like you commented Mary, why are there not more front page stories about this public betrayal.

It seems that canwest is applying the same strategy that Campbell has used from the start and that is to lay blame at the feet of someone else.

A crises in the health care, well it’s the health boards fault.

A crises in the education, well it’s the school boards fault.

A crises in the forestry, it’s the doller/u.s.slump.

A crises in the affordable housing market, it’s the poor fault.

A crises at the convention center, it’s the building costs.

And one could go on and on….but..

It doesn’t matter what part of Gordon Campbell’s government you are discussing its always someone else’s fault, and now canwest has attempted to use this feeble editorial to deflect there unwillingness to hold the Campbell government to account.

It would be very difficult to think that canwest has now seen the light and that they are now going be the SAVIOUR for the people of BC.
 
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Thanks, Anon 1:28. And when they can blame "None of the above" they can always point to the NDP. Cripes, how many decades ago was Glen Clark premier of BC??

Which made me remember. A friend from England was visiting at the time of the Clark election. He wasn't very interested in our politics but I had stayed up for hours on election night watching the votes being tallied.

Next day my friend asked (for politeness' sake, I'm sure) "Who won the election?" I held up the front page of Vancouver Sun where two men were pictured: 1) Glen Clark, the premier, and 2) Gordon Campbell, leader of BC's Opposition and apple of CanWest's eye.

I held the newspaper at a distance where my friend couldn't read the print and challenged him: "Guess which man won?" He pointed immediately to the large flattering portrait of Campbell.

"No," I said. "that's the man the newspaper WANTED to win. This smaller photo shows our newly elected premier."

It was so blatantly biased, I kept that front page tacked to my office wall for several years, just to remind myself.

Funny how we remember those things.

You'd think real newspaper people would understand that. And maybe they do, on a different level. Maybe other people saw what my foreign friend saw: that Gordon Campbell had already won the next BC provincial election.

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The MSN in BC destroyed Wilson's reputation so Campbell could become leader of the BC Liberals. Campbell made a miscue and told us that he would privatize BC Rail and lost to Clark. Campbell learned his lesson and found the best way to win would be to lie rather than tell what he really had planned. The MSN destroyed Clark's reputation and Campbell sailed to victory. Then we started to find out how much of a liar he is. We still don't know because so much more has to be unvailed.
 
A buck a page?

A dollar a freaking page!

Nothing costs a dollar a page?

What the heckfire is going on here.

Does the court and or AG think that we are lawyers who can pass this kind of garbage on to our 'clients'.

Sheesh, this really is truly egregious.

Maybe we need to storm that office with a scanner and a laptop.

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Crazy, weird, and disturbing. What the hell is going on? I've gotta read Asper Nation. Will that help me to understand all this seeming manipulation? Glen Clark???? Mentioned first?? Bizarre. Gordon Wilson and Judy Tybachi seem like key people to comment on this kind of craziness. Where are they these days? I wasn't as intensely interested in political stuff back then, but I do remember how amazingly beautiful Judy Tyabchi was. Those two have had a lot of stressful stuff to deal with. I hope they managed to weather it all and true love prevailed.
 
About the transcripts of the affidavits for the Basi Virk case. I went down to the court house to check them out. I was told if I wanted to look at them, I had to do so there at the courthouse. If I wanted a copy to take home with me, I had to pay $1 per page for copies. As I didn't have a lot of time or money with me, I just glanced at them briefly.
 
anonymous 9:19

Please don't keep the rest of us in suspense. If you are able, please post a brief on what you had glanced at. Beleive me we are all very interested. Some of us are not fortunate enough to be near the courthouse to view this information. And beleive me those of us who are pensioners can't afford the $250, let alone the trip to the big smoke to read it.

For the rest: maybe the solution would be for someone to go to the court and purchase the file (then file a lawsuit) and sell it to the rest of us for say $2 a copy to cover mailing costs and their expenses in purchasing it. I certainly could live with that.

p.s. yes Mary there was a bit of editing done. Partly to get out what needed to be said and partly to prevent any defamation or slander suits.
 
Lets not worry too much about the cost of these scripts. A class action lawsuit will prevail, then we can buy canwest!
 
gary e.

I'm in.

Heck I'd even go to 20 bucks.

RossK

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Most of the affidavits were affidavits attesting that letters from one lawyer to another, e.g. McCulloch and Bolton to Copley or vice versa were received. I didn't notice anything particularly earth shatterring in their correspondences. It all appeared pretty routine to me.
 
Speaking of shoddy media coverage. Why have none of CanWest Global's Vancouver media outlets reported anything about the revolt of the federal Liberal Party's Quebec caucus against Stephane Dion. You would think that would be a big story. They want to dump him big time.
 
As one who occasionally operates a printer, thus having to feed it toner and paper, I know there is a cost to be paid to produce "hard copies" of legal documents, or any documents. However, if "our" justice system, paid for by us, wasn't so secretive there would be little cost involved in publishing the same documents online from where those with a desire for their printed copies could produce same on their own personal dime.

I wonder how the time/expense that CanWest spends in court trying to "free" information to share with its public compares with the time and expense it spends in court trying to shut up those who dare to say critical or mistaken things about themselves.

Though I agree with BC Mary that sources in many cases need to be protected, at the same time, for the NYTimes to act all self-righteous in defense of Judith Miller as she tried to protect now convicted felon Lewis Libby kinda stimulates my gag reflex. At some point like in the case of Judith Miller or closer to home, Stevie Cameron, the reporter/journalist becomes involved in criminal activity and has a duty as a citizen to NOT obstruct justice by hiding the crimes and criminals and thereby becoming essentially an accomplice.

I would take the recent whining by the CanWest herd more seriously if I thought they would bother to even seek out information and share it with people such as myself. We're still waiting for "Pointy" La Pointe's promised story about the happenings in Studio 54 oh so long ago now. I guess Pointy mis-spoke and when he said they would publish a story in a few days, he meant a few years. Heck, anybody can mis-speak, some so-called media seem to make it standard practice.
 
Agreed, kootcoot.

It's a simple request - that a court reporter actually report on public cases of public interest. Why is this being made to look like such a difficult request for the media to accomplish?

When court is in session, simply report the proceedings to the people, including information made available to the public by the courts but difficult for some members of the public to access.

kootcoot's idea of posting the info online is a good one...elegant in its simplicity.

So why is what should be easy, being made so difficult?


Why is access to information regarding the trial of the century always in danger of either being trivialized - or reversely, made to look insurmountable?
 
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That $250. pile of pages being offered for sale at Criminal Registry in Vancouver ... Anonymous 1:30 says they don't amount to a hill o'beans.

Anon 1:30 said...

"Most of the affidavits were affidavits attesting that letters from one lawyer to another, e.g. McCulloch and Bolton to Copley or vice versa were received. I didn't notice anything particularly earth shatterring in their correspondences. It all appeared pretty routine to me."


Is it possible that this unending tug o'war over "Disclosure" of this ... Disclosure of that ... is just not necessary? that it's a pointlessly frivolous delaying game?

Or what. Why would Robin be kept waiting approx. 70 days to see stuff like this? For $1. a page? Why would defence wait years to ask for them?

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