Friday, November 10, 2006

Harper 1, Press Gallery 0 

Remember the fight between Harper and the Ottawa Press Gallery over who got to ask questions at press conferences? Over at Rabble, Ira Basen reports that Harper won and the press gallery lost.
And actually, it was the public which lost:
. . . how many Canadians are lucid enough to notice what's really happening. The men and women of the Parliamentary Press Gallery are generally not sympathetic characters, and Harper took a low risk gamble when he decided to begin his assault on the press with them. In the end, few Canadians care who gets to ask questions at press conferences, and so long as the dispute continues to be framed that way, Harper's moves will cause him little harm.
But Canadians should care if their Prime Minister's real agenda is to de-certify the press; if, like George Bush, he believes that the national media's role in framing the democratic debate needs to be significantly reduced; if, while denouncing the press “filters,” he is actually advancing the idea that the information functions provided by his office through websites and podcasts have an equal legitimacy; and if by trying to control who gets to ask questions, and relying on sympathetic media and bloggers to get his message out, he actually believes it will “helpful for democracy.”
In the end, Stephen Harper's efforts to rollback the press may be more sophisticated and more subtle than the in-your-face tactics employed by the Bush White House. This is Canada after all! But the consequences are no less disturbing.
Harper may have won the battle, however, and be losing the war. No matter how it is spun, the Canadian public does manage to find out what the Conservatives are doing -- like here and here and here and here and here -- and that's just from today. Unless they start getting out in front of the news, it's not going to be pretty for the Conservatives.

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