The Canadian government is co-hosting a “press freedom” summit this week with Botswana, and yet the ministry responsible for hosting the online conference is withholding a Rebel News access to information request for the next year.
The summit is the current year’s iteration of the Media Freedom Conference co-hosted by Global Affairs Canada and the U.K., held in London last year. During that conference, Foreign Minister (now Finance Minister) Chystia Freeland tried to ban Rebel News and Andrew Lawton from True North from attending a press conference with her.
It’s also the same conference where the organizers invited the foreign minister of one of the most censorious nations on the planet, Pakistan, to speak on a panel.
This summer, two Botswanan journalists were arrested and charged, their cameras and equipment confiscated, and were detained for several hours, facing a maximum of two years in jail for the crime of public nuisance, when they were discovered photographing a building that houses a public agency.
These conferences aren’t about media freedom. They are about freedom theatre.
As Andrew Lawton reports, the first high-level meeting at the 2020 media freedom conference was closed to media.
A joint ministerial statement that came out of the high-level meeting:
We expressed concern at the efforts of some states to use the crisis as an excuse to put in place undue restrictions on a free and independent media. We also expressed concern that some states have undertaken pandemic-related disinformation campaigns to undermine trust in democratic political systems and their pandemic responses.
We expressed concern regarding measures taken by intermediaries to limit access to or remove content online, including through automated processes, such as algorithms, which have not been made transparent and the use of which may unduly restrict access to information.
The Trudeau government, despite being performatively concerned about “intermediaries,” search engines, and social media companies limiting or removing content online, is bringing in new laws to force social media companies to remove content at the urging of the government.
Global Affairs, the same ministry responsible for the conference, is currently blocking a set of Rebel News' access to information requests. We recently requested information about the infiltration of Chinese front groups such as the Confucius Institute into Canadian schools, and Global Affairs wrote us back to say they're taking a full year beyond the statutory 30 days to release the information:
In accordance with paragraph 9(1)(a) of the Act, an extension of up to 365 days beyond the original statutory limit is required since the request necessitates a search through a large number of records and meeting the original time limit would unreasonably interfere with the operations of the Department.
Perhaps the Media Freedom Conference kept the journalists out of their high-level meeting because the laughing and scoffing at the lies might have been distracting to the politicians.