Freeland, PMO walk back promise that any reporter can ask questions ‘without fear of retaliation’

Following Monday's arrest, neither Freeland's political aides nor the Prime Minister's Office (PMO) commented on the arrest of Rebel News reporter David Menzies. Freeland, a former newspaper executive, once claimed any reporter could ask her any question 'without fear of retaliation.'

Freeland, PMO walk back promise that any reporter can ask questions ‘without fear of retaliation’
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Deputy Prime Minister Chrystia Freeland has walked back her promise to take any question from any reporter following a brutal RCMP takedown of Rebel News reporter David Menzies.

On January 8, an RCMP detail manhandled and arrested Menzies in Richmond Hill, Ontario, after a plainclothes Mountie claimed the reporter committed 'assault.'

Rebel attempted to ask Freeland, a former newspaper executive and journalist, why her government had not yet given Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) a terrorist group designation.

The IRGC shot down Ukraine International Airlines Flight PS752 on January 8, 2020, killing all 176 passengers on board — including 55 Canadians and 30 permanent residents.

The Commons justice committee in a December 6 report Measures To Protect Canadians recommended blacklisting under the Criminal Code with the expulsion of “the estimated 700 Iranian agents operating in Canada.”

Unsurprisingly, Freeland did not answer the question. 

Immediately after Menzies asked for an explanation, an RCMP officer bumped into and detained him.

"You’re under arrest for assault," he said.

"Who are you?" asked the reporter. "You are under arrest for assault," replied the unidentified constable. "You’re under arrest for assault," he repeated. 

Four police officers handcuffed Menzies, and briefly detained the reporter without charge, reported Blacklock’s Reporter.

Following the arrest Monday, Freeland’s political aides nor the Prime Minister’s Office (PMO) commented on the incident, which garnered widespread condemnation from other media and parliamentarians.

Freeland, a former newspaper executive, once claimed any reporter could ask her any question "without fear of retaliation."

"I used to be a journalist," she frequently reminds reporters, having worked previously with the Financial Times, Reuters and the Globe and Mail.

"In any democracy journalists must have the ability to report facts freely, to defend, expose and advance the truth without fear of retaliation, reprisal, violence or imprisonment," she said in 2019. "Canada will always defend this right."

In 2018, the minister said: "Without a free and independent press we all lose," acknowledging the media is "essential" in "defending and advancing the truth."

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau in a 2015 Ministerial Mandate letter to Freeland wrote: "All journalists in Canada and abroad are professionals who, by asking necessary questions, contribute in an important way to the democratic process. Your professionalism and engagement with them is essential."

"It is important that we acknowledge mistakes when we make them," the letter said. "Canadians do not expect us to be perfect. They expect us to be honest, open and sincere in our efforts to serve the public interest."

However, the Trudeau Liberals routinely boycott questions from Rebel News, having barred the publication from attending election events, reported Blacklock’s Reporter. 

The Federal Court has twice censured the Debates Commission for arbitrarily barring Rebel reporters without just cause.

The news outlet "did not ask to impose its views but for the opportunity to participate in coverage of matters of importance during a federal election," Federal Justice Elizabeth Heneghan wrote in a 2022 ruling that struck the Rebel ban. 

"There is room in the nation for the expression of opposing points of view," she added.

This is a developing story.

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