Friday, May 07, 2010

Supreme Court Clarifies Confidential Sources & Whithers Our Democracy?

Supreme Court of Canada rules media confidentiality of sources is not absolute. I have not read the judgement yet but I will and will comment more on it later.

According to news sources the court recognized “for the first time that journalistic privilege against divulging sources can exist, but they concluded that each case must be weighed on its own merits.”

This means each time a media source wants to be confidential an evaluation will have to be made about is the protection of the secret source in the public interest and does the confidentiality protection outweigh other competing interests.

This has implications all over the place including bloggers. Some bloggers are becoming news sources and often the recipients of anonymous tips and evidence. I know that is my experience and I am not alone. Bloggers are becoming more like journalists and professional journalists are blogging. The conventional and social media norms, rules and laws and changing and traditional media ownership becomes more concentrated. The decentralized and chaotic new world of communications increases and decreases the control factor and authority of media of all kinds.

I see this Supreme Court test of what is in the greater public interest being even more interesting when we look at controlling our governments. I see the power of the state over citizens as significant as terrorism. The recent rise in the tendency of governments at the political and program levels to intimidate, bully, threaten and scapegoat people and organizations they disagree with is a very disturbing trend to a free and democratic society.

The role of dissent is crucial to free speech and a vibrant democracy. When citizens and organizations acting on behalf of the state, helping the state in decision support roles or advocating for change to improve our society can be marginalized by Big Brother hostile attitudes from the politically powerful, we run the risk of destroying our democracy through disengagement.

At Reboot 2.0 we heard from lots of Alberta not-for-profit organizations that were being threatened by our provincial government with funding cuts and career limitations if they spoke publicly about provincial government policy decisions. Many of those social program funding cuts were being made for selective political purposes, not good governance objectives. Fortunately these groups are banding together and finding strength in numbers and standing up to such Big Government harassment.

When a Senator can advise women’s groups to “Shut the fuck up” about the Harper government’s ridiculous stand to deny abortion funding in its maternal care (sic) foreign aid fiasco we need to worry. Senator Nancy Ruth warned that there would be government push back and repercussions if there was vocal opposition to the anti-abortion ideology of the Harper government. This politically motivated hypocritical farce has been vigorously opposed by some activist women’s groups.  Many of them found their funding cut by the Harper government the very next day.

We see Prime Minister Harper Proroguing Parliament just to hide information on torture of Afghan detainees from the Canadian public as a further erosion of democracy for purposes of retaining personal political power. We see some political theatre of the absurd as Premier Stelmach presumptuously and unilaterally extends of the term of current Senators-in-Waiting rather than face the legislated election of replacements.  This inept political posturing is motivated by fear of a potential electoral embarrassment in elections this fall in the face of rise of the Wildrose Alliance .

In such a climate of fear the state can stifle discussion and derail debate and, the process, destroy an effective democracy. Now if you are brave enough to leak confidential information to the media you need to be pretty sure you know what you are doing and be prepared to face the consequences. With the recent Supreme Court decision you can rest assured Big Brother government like Steve Harper’s will come after you, one way or another. We have seen how they handle their friends like Mulroney and Jaffer. Imagine how they will handle a little guy!

Citizens have to regain control of the politics and governance processes of oir democracy.  I think government is an important agent for change but with the wrong people in power the change is never good.  Be careful who you trust to govern us and get serious about understanding your power and options as citizens.  If you want to learn more join the Reboot Alberta citizens movement and be part of the solution