“Bottom line, as an online journalist I had to be vetted by the Alberta government and I have yet to hear a single good argument why Ezra shouldn’t be as well.” – Markham Hislop
Dear Ms. Boyd. Since launching online news site Beacon News in 2008, I have been accredited as a journalist by many governments, organizations, businesses, and events in both Canada and the United States. That experience gives me a unique perspective on media accreditation my colleagues working for national newspaper chains and electronic media networks may not possess.
I won’t bother recounting the controversy that led to your commission by Premier Rachel Notley to provide recommendations for an Alberta government media policy. Readers can peruse the background here and here.
In this letter, I want to make two general points.
One, the argument that governments shouldn’t choose who is and who is not a journalist is nonsense. Governments have been doing this for decades.
But how would Canadian journalists know?
Most are employed by large newspaper chains, like Postmedia, or electronic media networks like CTV or CBC. By virtue of their size and their presence these news organizations have always been accredited and any journalist working for them can sling their credentials around their neck and attend a government media event without question.
Why wouldn’t they assume that online journalists like me can do the same?
I can’t. Or, at least, I couldn’t at the beginning of my online journalism career. I had been out of the industry for a few years and few people in the Alberta media industry knew me.
Check the sign up page for Alberta government media advisories. The message hasn’t changed since the NDP took over from the PCAA last year: “For accredited media only: Sign up to get government news releases and media-only event notices by email.”
Two, Ezra Levant doesn’t deserve to be accredited.
An Ontario Superior Court judge has delivered a stinging rebuke of Ezra Levant, declaring as part of an $80,000 libel judgment that the Sun Media personality displayed “reckless disregard for the truth” and “took little or no responsibility for the accuracy” of certain statements he published on his personal blog.
Finding that Levant acted with malice in his coverage of a 2008 British Columbia Human Rights Tribunal, Justice Wendy Matheson said “he did little or no fact-checking regarding the posts complained of, either before or after their publication. Nor did he accurately report what was taking place at the hearing. And, with one exception, when he learned that he got his facts wrong, he made no corrections.”
In finding for plaintiff Khurrum Awan, who was at the time an Osgoode Hall law student, the judge also rejected a defence, put forward by Levant’s lawyers, that their client’s reputation as an “outspoken provocateur and troublemaker” would preclude most reasonable people from taking his defamatory statements literally.