Saturday, November 18, 2006

The Screed That Served Us All


There's an old saying that freedom of the press is only assured for the man that owns one.

But perhaps that should be updated to include the man who 'controls' one.

Which, I guess, one could argue is the purview of rogue dictators and the Rovians.

But what about Canadian Prime Ministers who lecture Asian leaders about how important 'free speech' is to all Canadians?

From Saturday's (Nov18/06) Globe and Mail

HANOI — Prime Minister Stephen Harper kept himself under wraps yesterday as his officials worked to defuse a growing list of controversies such as whether to meet with China's President, the ouster of a Chinese diplomat from Canada and how to respond to new proposals to combat global warming.

Mr. Harper and his staff took aggressive control of the agenda after a reporter threw a question at him as he was being greeted by his Vietnamese counterpart yesterday morning. Mr. Harper is in the Vietnamese capital to attend a weekend summit of the Asia-Pacific Economic Co-operation forum, but arrived early to take part in bilateral meetings with other leaders.

The question thrown to Mr. Harper prior to his meeting with the Vietnamese leader had to do with the Chinese foreign ministry's comments that it was irresponsible to interfere in China's domestic affairs.

Canadian reporters found themselves barred from the rest of Mr. Harper's events yesterday, including a photo opportunity with Canadian youth and a dinner with his friend and ideological ally, Australian Prime Minister John Howard.

So, if the press was barred from the proceedings, how do we actually know that Mr. Harper actually told the Vietnmamese PM how much import we, the Canuckistani people, place on free speech and, by implication, a free press?

Because, as Anthony Germain told us on last night's CBC 'World-at-Six', Mr. Harper's Chief-Rovian-In-Training, Sandra Buckler, was good enough to wheel in an 'unamed government official' who told the no-longer-free press just that.

Mr. Germain was also good enough to tell us that when Mr. Harper turned to the TV cameras before the dinner with Mr. Howard and said he wanted to speak 'to the media' about how he is going to focus on energy and the environment at the APEC meeting there were, of course, no actual media there. In fact, while it looked on TV like there was a news conference going on Mr. Germain noted that the only people in the room were Mr. Harper's wife Loreen, the Howards, PMO staff, the TV cameraman, and Mr. Harper's official photographer*.

Mr. Germain, also went into considerable detail about how there was to be a 10:00 pm press briefing when all was said and done. But then the story about Karl's man in Vietnam asking his buddy Steve-O to send our warships to North Korea broke and the entire thing was cancelled.

So, when midnight rolled around the fully-cowed and penned Mr. Germain finally asked himself, his producers, and his audience if:

'it was possible to do this story without sounding like it was a self-serving screed by a
frustrated journalist?'

As one Canadian in the audience who believes that free speech is an unalienable right rather than a political point scoring tool I would answer Mr. Germain with a most definitive yes.

*Must admit, that last one had me wondering.....was it officially a 'still' one or a leniversion photog?
If you would like to keep up on non-stop the machinations of Ms. Buckler and Mr. Harper, don't forget to check out Alison's ongoing series at Creekside.


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