Wednesday, August 01, 2007

Where’s your balls, media? And paging RCMP Commissioner Elliot

The gall of the Harper Conservatives never ceases to amaze me. This story is astounding:

CHARLOTTETOWN (CP) _ RCMP officers, acting on orders from the Prime Minister’s Office, evicted journalists from a hotel lobby Wednesday to prevent them from approaching Conservative MPs to discuss the country’s governance. While tour bus groups freely wandered the lobby of Charlottetown’s Delta Hotel, plainclothes Mounties rebuffed reporters who had convened for the Conservative party’s three-day summer strategy session.

“There’s a time and a place for the media,” a Mountie told a small knot of print reporters, making it clear the issue was not a matter of security but of communications strategy. The unnamed officer said he was acting on orders from the Prime Minister’s Office.


Forgive me for getting worked-up, but as a journalist myself I take these things seriously. I have two main points to make:

To my media friends
: Are you seriously going to stand for this bullshit? You have lawyers, right? Have them get their asses to court right now and file an injunction or something. I don’t see how it can possibly be legal to bar members of the media from a place that is freely accessible to any other member of the public. There is something in the charter for rights about a free press, isn’t there? Fight this tooth and nail or you’ve officially become Pravda. At the very least one of you should force the issue and get yourself arrested. I’d be curious to see what charge they come up with.

To my RCMP friends
: Since when did you become political police? I mean, seriously. Your job is to keep the public safe, and to keep the peace. Not to be a tool of Steve Harper’s communications strategy. Is this what you signed-up for, protecting media shy politicians from microphones? What law, pray tell, were you enforcing here? The police are independent in this country; you don't take orders from the PMO. Just say No.

Back when Harper appointed William Elliot, a man with strong Conservative ties, as the new RCMP Commissioner I said I was willing to give him the benefit of the doubt but he would have a careful line to tread and would need to be careful not to be seen as Harper's man. Time to step up Bill.

Moving on, get this ridiculous explination from caucus chair Rahim Jaffer:

The buffer zone was attributed by Jaffer to the presence of wives and children of some of the MPs.

“We hope there will be some respect for families and others because it is a little bit different and having the cameras there, having the journalists there sometimes (is) intimidating for some of these people who don’t get a chance . . . ” he said, leaving the sentence

I don’t doubt he left it unfinished, he must have realized how much of a massive idiot he sounded like and decided it better to just shut the hell up. What’s the old saying, better to keep your mouth closed and be thought an idiot then open your mouth and remove all doubt? Too late Rahim.

And here’s Harper’s communications chief, Sandra Buckler:

"It's quite normal for there to be private areas and then areas where the media are,'' she said by e-mail.

Sure, Sandra. But not the dammed lobby of the hotel! Get serious.

Also weighing in are: Paul Wells, Garth Turner, Liberal Arts and Minds, Impolitical and John Murney,


Here’s another quote from the RCMP, via CTV:

"No cameras, no mics," one plainclothed RCMP officer told CTV News on Wednesday. "That is what the party asked."

So “the party” asks and the RCMP jumps, is that how it works?

And reading more of CTV’s coverage, I see this evening Jaffer is now changing his story:

However, later in the evening, Jaffer said the RCMP made the decision based on security concerns.

OK, so we have Jaffer saying the decision to bar the media, but not the public, from the lobby of a hotel was made by the RCMP for security reasons. And we have the RCMP saying this is what “the party asked” and that they were “acting on orders from the Prime Minister’s Office.”

Now obviously those two versions of events don’t mesh. So the question becomes who is lying, the RCMP or Rahim Jaffer and the Conservative Party?
And who really ordered the crackdown? Are the Cons going to hide behind the RCMP to trample the public's right to know like they're hiding behind military members and civil servants at DND over the Afghan detainee file?

It's an interesting pattern.

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BlueBerry Pick'n said...

Where did they leave their cojones?

They left them with the AMERICAN mainstream media. the cup of George Bush's sweaty little hands.

BlueBerry Pick'n
can be found @
"Silent Freedom is Freedom Silenced"

JimBobby said...

Whooee! Good one, Jeff. If the media grow some balls, maybe they'll ask Elliot who's callin' the shots. I wonder if the RCMP'll be on hand to isolate other parties from the press.