• By Sheila Gunn Reid

Help stop Rachel Notley's blacklist of journalists

Rachel Notley must end her illegal blacklist of Rebel News' journalists

UPDATE: Heather Boyd's unacceptable recommendations to Rachel Notley

March 18, 2016

Heather Boyd, the retired journalist hand-picked by Rachel Notley to give her advice about media censorship has issued her report. It’s a 122-page hodgepodge, more than 100 pages of which are Boyd simply cutting and pasting the bylaws of press galleries from other provinces. Boyd was paid $10,000 for eighteen pages of writing.  

UPDATE: Today, Notley’s spin doctor sent out this e-mail to select journalists:

February 17, 2016

"We’ve heard a lot of feedback from Albertans and media over the course of the last two days and it’s clear we made a mistake. The government has appointed former Western Canadian Bureau Chief for Canadian Press, Heather Boyd to consult and give us recommendations on what the government’s media policies should be. In the meantime, no one will be excluded from government media events."

Rachel Notley is a bully. But now she's gone too far.

She's ordering armed security and the Alberta Department of Justice to crack down on reporters from The Rebel -- physically blocking us from reporting from Government of Alberta events, including the Legislature itself.

Here are the facts:

On January 29th, our Calgary reporter, Holly Nicholas, attended a Government of Alberta briefing about the oil royalty review. Holly checked in with the civil servants running the event, said she was with The Rebel, showed her ID and went in. As usual. But about 90 minutes later, one of Notley’s staff heard Holly was in the briefing. So the premier’s office sent someone in to find her, and kick her out, simply because she was with The Rebel.

Sheila Gunn Reid, our Alberta bureau chief, was also at the royalty review, standing with other journalists, waiting for the press conference. Same thing: when Notley's people heard she was there, they kicked her out too.

These were government events. Non-partisan by nature. Places journalists have every right to be.

On February 3rd, the NDP blacklist went to a whole new level.

Justin Trudeau and Notley had a press conference at the Legislature. Sheila showed up, as she has before. But this time she was told by security she was on a "no go" list – they actually said that. When she asked for an explanation, they called the head of security who ordered her removed -- all while Sheila had her camera rolling  

Security asked Sheila for “accreditation”. But that’s a bogus excuse. We have reported from the Legislature before. And just a day earlier we had checked with the president of the Legislature press gallery, Darcy Henton, who confirmed there is no such thing as accreditation to cover the government of the day, in the building that houses our democracy. Any working journalist is allowed in. Rachel Notley can't pick her favourites here. The Legislature is not her private property. It’s owned by the people, not by the NDP. She's not Hugo Chavez, but she's doing her best impersonation.

We weren't given a real explanation for why we were not allowed to do our jobs like everyone else in the media. We were given a cheap lie.

So we had a senior lawyer in Alberta, Fred Kozak, write a calm, polite letter to the Premier’s office, describing what happened and asking the government to confirm it wouldn’t happen again. We decided to give them a week to reply – a chance to do the right thing. You can see his full letter here:

Well, on Friday, we heard back – from a lawyer with the Department of Justice! It was a two-line letter. Notley's digging in her heels. Reporters at The Rebel -- and anyone even “connected” with us -- are “not journalists and are not entitled to access media lock-ups or other such events.” You can see the letter here:

Notley’s not even pretending it’s anything other than a blacklist. She’s admitting it. And she’s got a lawyer from the Department of Justice enforcing her enemies list now.

The Rebel isn’t everyone’s cup of tea. But all Albertans are entitled to freedom of the press. Notley is doing things we couldn't imagine even the Redford or Prentice Tories doing. Even they wouldn't throw out reporters for criticizing them. Notley promised us a more transparent and accountable government. But in reality, Notley and her NDP have given us a more closed, more censorious and more belligerent government than ever.

At The Rebel, we value freedom and we fight for free speech. So we are going to fight back. We had hoped our lawyer’s letter might have convinced them to do the right thing – but it didn’t.

So here’s what we going to do now.

First of all, we’re going to keep doing the tough, investigative journalism that we’ve become known for in Alberta. The fact that Notley has blacklisted us confirms we’re doing reporting that needs to be done.

Second, we’re going to ask the public to show Notley that here in Alberta, we support freedom of speech and freedom of the press for everyone. We don’t believe in the government bullying people, just because they have a different opinion. So we’re launching a petition, telling Notley that her enemies list just isn’t acceptable in Alberta.

Third, unfortunately, we have to sue the government. We’re not asking for money. We’re asking for a judge to declare that what Notley is doing is illegal – it violates our constitutional freedom of the press. Notley just can’t run the government like it’s her personal property, where she can bully anyone she doesn’t like.

Unfortunately, fighting for free speech isn’t free – this will cost us thousands of dollars. If you can help chip in to cover our legal costs, please do – you can do that right on this website. Unlike Notley, we don't have tax dollars and government lawyers to fight our battles for free.

Notley’s blacklist sets a dangerous precedent and we can't let it stand. Personal politics are not a valid reason to restrict the lawful activities of any media organization.

You might not agree with the Rebel. You might not appreciate what we do. And that's okay. We live in a society where we are all free to disagree. You don’t have to like us to agree that we have a right to be critical of the government in a free society.

In fact, being free to be critical of the government is essential for a free society.