Date: Tue, 26 Dec 1995 22:19:42 GMT
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/* Written 4:37 PM Dec 13, 1995 by web:ccpj in igc:media.issues */
Journalists unite in oppostion to Bill 26
The Canadian Committee to Protect Journalists, media release, 13 December 1995
Journalists from across Canada have united to oppose changes to the access to information legislation contained in the controversial Tory Omnibus Bill.
The Canadian Committee to Protect Journalists (CCPJ) is coordinating the Media Alliance For Access To Government Information which includes The Canadian Association of Journalists, The Computer Assisted Reporting Network, PEN Canada, ARTICLE 19 (International Centre Against Censorship), and the Writers Union. The Canadian Media Guild and the Southern Ontario Newspaper Guild (CEP-Local 87-M) have also endorsed the objectives of the Alliance.
There are three main changes which will severely impair the ability of journalists to scrutinize the functioning of the government. Governmental agencies would be empowered to dismiss requests they don't like as "frivolous or vexatious." The changes will also allow institutions to charge fees for making requests and to charge different amounts depending on who is making the request and what type of information is being sought. The changes would also place severe restrictions on the right to appeal refusals to disclose information by institutions.
"Mike Harris's changes to the access to information acts are more than merely cost-cutting measures," says CCPJ Executive Director Wayne Sharpe. "Mr. Harris hopes to restrict media access to government information in order to enforce his unpopular policies under the cover of un-democratic legislation," says Sharpe. "We must stop this blatant attempt to take away our freedom to access information."
NDP Management Board of Cabinet critic Tony Martin, NDP Justice critic Marion Boyd and Liberal Management Board of Cabinet critic Joseph Cordiano, have all joined the Media Alliance in condemnation of the pending changes. Information and Privacy Commissioner Tom Wright has also publicly denounced the changes as an unprecedented barrier to access to information.
Marion Boyd and representatives of the Media Alliance will hold a press conference in the media briefing room, on the first floor at Queen's Park on Thursday, December 14 at noon.
We ask our media colleagues to join us in the struggle to preserve our right to access government information, which is central to our ability to fulfil our role as watchdogs of democracy.
Media contacts: Kristina Stockwood or Joseph Couture c/o the CCPJ at tel: (416) 703-1638 or Robert Washburn of the Canadian Association of Journalists at tel: (905) 372-4966.