Tuesday, April 05, 2005

Canadian Government "Considering" an End to Free Speech


Canada's Press Crackdown

By Howard Kurtz
Washington Post Staff Writer
Tuesday, April 5, 2005; 8:38 AM

Is anyone in the market for some non-Pope news?

With the papal passing still dominating the media, especially on cable, I thought I might check in on what else is going on out there.

You often hear about dictatorships cracking down on Internet news to maintain censorship as tightly as possible. These are generally the kind of regimes that not only try to choke off free expression but are fighting a losing battle against technology in the process.

And the latest offender is . . . Canada?

Yes, our democratic neighbor to the north, which lacks a First Amendment and has a somewhat narrower view of press freedom, is cracking down on an American blogger for reporting on a corruption investigation that apparently has to do with advertising contracts being steered to politically connected firms. The blogger is Ed Morrissey of Captains Quarters, and this London Free Press story brings us up to date:

"A U.S. website has breached the publication ban protecting a Montreal ad executive's explosive and damning testimony at the federal sponsorship inquiry. The U.S. blogger riled the Gomery commission during the weekend by posting extracts of testimony given in secret Thursday by Jean Brault.

"The American blog, being promoted by an all-news Canadian website, boasts 'Canada's Corruption Scandal Breaks Wide Open' and promises more to come. The owner of the Canadian website refused to comment.

"Inquiry official Francois Perreault voiced shock at the publication ban breach, and said the commission co-counsel Bernard Roy and Justice John Gomery will decide today whether to charge the Canadian website owner with contempt of court."

The Toronto Globe & Mail plays catchup:

"An unassuming 42-year-old call-centre manager and Star Trek fan from Minneapolis, Minn., has provoked a political firestorm in Canada.

"Ed Morrissey -- Captain Ed to his friends -- published on the weekend what no Canadian is allowed to print or broadcast. . . .

"By midday, 131,000 people had visited the site. In just one hour before lunchtime, he had 26,000 hits and by the end of the day he estimated he was on track for about 300,000 hits, many from Canadians. He averages 22,000 visits a day."

This Globe & Mail captures the difficulty of writing about something you're not supposed to cover:

"While senior opposition politicians and staff denied the rumours of clandestine meetings and possible non-confidence motions, it's apparent that most politicos in Ottawa are aware of the substance, if not the minute details, of last week's testimony."

Here's the reaction from Captains Quarters

"The Canadian website in question is Nealenews.com, which linked to my post on Saturday night or early Sunday morning. It only provided a link back to my site; it carried none of the testimony itself. In fact, it's still headlining a link to CQ despite the threat of legal action.

"In an age of instant communications and greater freedom of the press, one would think that this kind of publication ban would obviously prove futile, especially when dealing with the kind of corruption that the Gomery Commission is investigating. . . .

"However, if Perreault is to be believed, no one even considered the notion that someone might talk. Either M. Perreault is hopelessly naive, or he gets the Captain Louis Renault award for being shocked, shocked that free speech goes on in a democracy."

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