Corporate Control of Editorial Policy in Canada Threatens Press Freedom Says IFJ

The International Federation of Journalists today gave its backing to a campaign for editorial freedom being fought by journalists and newspaper staff in Canada who accuse their employer of stifling free expression by imposing a country-wide editorial policy.

CanWest Global Communications Corporation, which owns 14 major newspapers around Canada, is insisting that all newspapers print the same editorial and is sidelining regional voices - particularly hitting the editorial independence of its newspaper in Montreal, the English-language Montreal Gazette.

"This corporate control of editorial policy proves how dangerous concentration of ownership is to media pluralism," said Aidan White, General Secretary of the IFJ, the world's largest journalists' group. "Journalists within the group are rightly concerned that their newspapers, which have built reputations upon speaking for the community they serve, are being moulded into a single voice for the company's national corporate agenda,"

The IFJ is supporting its Canadian affiliate TNG Canada-CWA, which is protesting over the new policy imposed in the Southam Newspaper chain. "What is happening in Canada, where regional diversity, the cornerstone of the country's democratic culture, is being undermined, is a prime example of how quality journalism is at risk from powerful monopolies," said White.

The IFJ supports journalists in Montreal who withdrew their bylines in protest at the company's action. "Journalists in Quebec are rightly angered by the imposition of the corporate voice of Winnipeg almost half a continent distant. They reflect the anxiety of journalists world-wide that media concentration is detrimental to quality."

Threats of dismissal against journalists who have protested are further evidence of the growing intolerance among media owners, says the IFJ. "We strongly support our colleagues in the Newspaper Guild Canada-CWA on this issue," said Aidan White, "It is an issue of international concern and should set alarm bells ringing among media regulators everywhere about concentration and the threat to editorial freedom."