05/29/2014 05:41 EDT | Updated 05/29/2014 05:59 EDT

Maternal Health Summit: Harper's Office Criticized For Restricting Journalists


The Prime Minister's Office is facing criticism for restricting journalists from covering certain aspects of an international maternal health summit in Toronto.

Maclean's science reporter Kate Lunau wrote Wednesday that, at the launch of the three-day conference, reporters were banned from attending sessions about immunization and nutrition.

Lunau said journalists also learned they could not attend the next day's sessions on newborn and maternal health.

On Thursday, reporters were told they could not attend a speech by Dr. Margaret Chan, director-general of the World Health Organization.

The Globe and Mail's Kim Mackrael tweeted she was told by organizers the decision was meant to ensure "frank discussions" could occur.

That was also the sentiment expressed on Twitter by Harper press secretary, Carl Vallee.

Reporters were, however, allowed to return to hear Laureen Harper welcome Melinda Gates before her keynote speech.

Perhaps unsurprisingly, the restrictions didn't sit well with other journalists — people who are paid to cover events and ask questions — who took to Twitter to voice their displeasure.

Maclean's politics editor Paul Wells took it a step further with a column on the controversy, calling it "asinine."

Wells suggested it was another example of the prime minister picking a needless fight.

"Harper's instincts are sometimes really bad, and when his latest advisers let those instincts win, reporters are the least of their problems," Wells wrote. "Their problem is Stephen Harper."

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