“Working journalists have lost a true champion and the IFJ has lost a dear friend”, IFJ General Secretary Anthony Bellanger said to mark the death of Arnold Amber, the former head of IFJ affiliate The Newspaper Guild, Canada.
His union honoured his memory as a “proud, passionate union leader, respected journalist, and fierce defender of free expression” following his death on Labour Day in a Toronto hospital with family at his bedside. He was 77.
Amber was director of TNG Canada from the time it was created in 1995 until he retired in 2011, and oversaw its evolution into CWA Canada.
A former Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (CBC) journalist, he was also a committed and tireless campaigner for freedom of expression and workers’ rights.
He was a passionate advocate of international solidarity and was elected to serve on the IFJ’s Executive for six years.
CWA Canada President Martin O’Hanlon, who took over from Amber in 2011, called him “a brilliant man who applied himself with equal discipline and passion to journalism, the labour movement, and defending freedom of the press. All of us who knew Arnold will never forget his intelligence and sense of humour. He could be impatient and crusty, but he had a deeply tender and vulnerable side that made you love him. He would have had some wry crack about what it took for him to miss a Labour Day parade; he marched every year. We’ll miss you old friend.”
Bernie Lunzer, president of the NewsGuild, said “Arnold Amber was of labour, and his passion and defence of it went back to the traditions he learned from his grandmother who worked with textile unions in Montreal. He worked hard on behalf of his peers at CBC and later for all the workers in what is now CWA Canada. As a leader he never forgot where he came from. He was truly a man of substance.”
Linda Foley, former TNG-CWA President and IFJ Vice-President said: "Arnold Amber was a champion for media rights and workers’ rights. That's why he placed such high value on his association with the IFJ. As a member of the Executive Committee, he brought focus, intelligence and quite a bit of humour to our meetings. A founder of Canadian Journalists for Free Expression (CJFE) and IFEX, he fought tirelessly for press freedom and transparency. He articulated those values passionately and inclusively.
"Arnold not only ‘talked the talk’, as we say in North America, he also ‘walked the walk’. Every day ,in every way. He was my dear friend from Canada. He will be missed by myself and so many others all over the world.”
Amber served as president of the CBC branch of the Canadian Media Guild (CWA Canada Local 30213) through significant periods in the public broadcaster’s history. Prior to joining the CBC, Amber was a Reuters correspondent in Africa and Europe, contributing to leading international newspapers, magazines and broadcasters, as well as working as a media trainer.
In 1994, he led an international team that directed South Africa’s public broadcaster’s coverage of the country’s first democratic elections.
In 2014, the Canadian Committee for World Press Freedom presented Amber its Spencer Moore Award for lifetime achievement, one of many highlights of his distinguished life which included:
- • Founder of Canadian Journalists for Free Expression. He served as its president for two decades, participating in numerous campaigns in support of journalists in crisis and lobbying for legislation to protect their rights.
- • Helped create the International Freedom of Expression Exchange (IFEX), which speaks out whenever media workers are victims of harassment, violence and murder. It’s the world’s largest network of free expression advocates, with more than 80 member organizations.
- • Served for six years on the executive of the International Federation of Journalists. He was a member of the IFJ’s select committee that examined transition issues facing media around the world and in 2010 published Journalism: Unions in Touch with the Future.
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