The headline of this article is not a statement this publication agrees with – far from it in fact. We think the prime minister’s hair is OK as it is. But it is one that we have published nonetheless because freedom of the press gives us the right to make provocative, controversial and even ill-informed statements – published opinions that can freely criticize our municipal, provincial and federal leaders for the actions or inactions they take without fear of execution, jail time or even reprisal.
You are free to read such statements or not. You are also free to agree with such statements or not. Such is the nature of a free society, and such is the message of Freedom to Read Week, an annual event that celebrates the great freedom we have in this country to (with reasonable exceptions) write what we want and to read what we want.
And yet in this day and age where the free exchange of ideas and ideologies (both well-informed and ill-informed) travel with the rapidity of an Internet Tweet, there are those who would still ban and censor the written word for no other reason than it does not agree with their particular worldview.
Fortunately such challenges are few and far between in Canada, and the days when a book like Rabbit’s Wedding (which depicts a black and white rabbit holding hands on the cover) could be removed from library shelves for its seemingly interracial agenda are over.
It’s fitting that we discuss these Freedoms at a time when the NDP government’s dustup with reporters from Ezra Levant’s Rebel Media has caught media headlines and media support. The government quickly reversed its decision to keep those they do not consider to be journalists on the other side of the door, but will now undertake a study to look at media policies.
As media, we are concerned with this move. Government should not get to decide who is media and who is not. The government should not get to decide what form or media – print or online – consists of journalists. The Guelph Mercury, in print since before Confederation, recently went online only. Under a no webbies policy, a publication older than the country itself would be barred from covering the government news of the day.
It’s interesting to note that Rebel Media co-founder Brian Lilly is a member of the Canadian Parliamentary Press Gallery, as are two reporters from Buzzfeed and one from Rabble.ca.
That Mr. Levant resonates with one side of a political spectrum and not another is a fact. That Mr. Levant is applauded by some and utterly loathed by others is a fact. That Mr. Levant and his colleagues have a right guaranteed under the Charter of Rights and Freedoms to criticize the government of the day is also a fact. And it’s also a fact that he takes his lumps in a court of law if he crosses the line, just like any other journalist, columnist, reporter or media pundit.
Censorship or attempts at censorship remain in our modern society and the freedom to write and the freedom to read is something we must never take for granted. This past week has shown this.
Go to the library and take out a banned book this week or read a newspaper article critical of government while you still can.