In the latest attempt to control press access to Canadian politicians, B.C. Premier Christy Clark found herself the subject of a full-on revolt in Vancouver, when a press conference for only ethnic mediawas gatecrashed by reporters for English-only publications.
Invitations to the press conference, which was called to discuss the Lunar New Year, had been distributed to a select list of journalists working on local, non-English outlets. The move came just weeks after Prime Minister Stephen Harper's own heavily curated — and criticized — press conference for hand-picked ethnic media took place on his visit to B.C.
When news of Clark's invitation-only event leaked out Thursday, Jeremy Nuttall, a reporter for 24 Hours Vancouver, and the journalist who broke the Harper story, took to social media to rally support.
"Premier Clark's 2 p.m. presser at the Vancouver office today," he posted to the Vancouver Press Club group on Facebook. "If your outlet is up for going en masse to possibly be denied access let me know, if we get enough people we'll do it."
The post provoked many English-language media outlets to turn out, and Nuttall later thanked them: "Just wanted to thank everyone for coming today. *Solidarity*!"
Ben Chin, the premier’s communications director, told 24 Hours that the selective presser was designed to aid access for ethnic media who "don’t always get to ask questions during other availabilities."
The BC NDP has also come under scrutiny for a segregated press conference they held last week.
But Bill Chu, chair of the Canadians for Reconciliation Society, told CTV News that the policy of dividing messages between cultural communities was a remnant from the "old days" when ethnic minorities were seen as second-class citizens in Canada. He said the practice is not something that should happen in an inclusive society.
"Because in a democracy what I hear should be exactly what you hear,” he told the broadcaster.
Talking about Harper's penchant for carefully orchestrated media access, Canadian Ethnic Media Association chair and Omni TV vice-president Madeline Ziniak told CBC News the policy is a way for politicians to avoid being held accountable on tough issues.
"It's a very controlled environment where some questions aren't answered," she said. "They know the ones who ask the hard questions, and sometimes, those reporters aren't invited."
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