09/07/2012 05:04 EDT | Updated 09/07/2012 05:06 EDT

RCMP Censorship? Mounties Ask Reporters To Submit Questions In Advance Of Event Honouring U.A.E. Officer


ST. JOHN'S, N.L. - A request that media submit questions to Newfoundland RCMP ahead of an event honouring female police officers from various parts of the world has been criticized as inappropriate in this country.

RCMP in St. John's sent an email to journalists inviting them to the event next week that will celebrate a woman from the United Arab Emirates as police officer of the year.

It cites "diplomatic protocol" as it requests on behalf of the Middle East country that reporters who wish to interview the officer at the event email questions to the RCMP for review by UAE officials.

RCMP Sgt. Marc Coulombe also asks on behalf of the UAE that no additional questions be asked.

Chris Waddell, director of the School of Journalism and Communication at Carleton University in Ottawa, said reporters should refuse any restrictions on their right to ask questions.

"It's not diplomatic protocol. I mean, that's baloney," he said in an interview. "Foreigners come to the country all the time and reporters aren't forced to submit questions in advance.

"This isn't appropriate in Canada and shouldn't be happening."

When asked about the restrictions, Coulombe said the RCMP was just acting as messenger for the UAE embassy.

Officials at the embassy in Ottawa could not be reached about the event that's being led by the International Association of Women Police, which describes itself as an organization of law enforcement officers in 60 countries that's working to increase professionalism in criminal justice.

Waddell said media outlets should not bend to such requests any more than they should tolerate the growing trend among Canadian government spokespeople who answer questions from reporters with vetted, emailed statements.

"It's a reprehensible practice," he said. "You should be able to ask the questions you want to ask without having them be pre-screened."

Emailed responses and boilerplate media lines erode the accountability of those in positions of responsibility, Waddell said.

"It creates the illusion of availability without any substance."