I am really worried about how controlled is the access to government science bodies is becoming, for example, the Department of Fisheries and Oceans, Environment Canada and in general government science experts.
The Harper government has instituted new rules by creating “media contacts” on almost every scientific body run by the government. At plain sight it might even look like a good idea to have a professional liaison for us journalists to have as first point of contact.
But in reality they work as gate keepers censoring scientists by creating such a bureaucracy where information flow and exchange is none existing.
With this method government scientists and experts cannot directly answer to journalists, all communications must pass and be approved by the new media contacts.
Just a few months ago I was writing a piece on inland salmon farming, and I needed to talk to the scientists in charge of performing risk assessments whenever a license for salmon farming is issued.
I made three phone calls and left messages to the media contacts.Iindeed within a few days I got a call back.
I thought, this is working well.
Disappointment came when I started to get all these questions, is it going to be published?, where?, please send your questions to see who can answer them better, when is your deadline?.
Well, I did not hear from them in the time promised. After my deadline for submitting my piece passed they contacted me to tell me they were sorry, “we are sorry we missed your deadline, we can have the interview this week if this is useful to you”, and I said fine, lets have the interview on any day it is suitable for you.
And once again I got no answer. After two weeks I received an email, it was another media contact saying that my “request” was been passed on to her.
Now I was asked, again, to write my questions in order to get an answer from the DFO. Somehow the interview was all forgotten.
I was denied access.
We citizens pay taxes and millions of our tax dollars are invested in research and the production of knowledge in government scientific bodies. This knowledge belongs to all Canadians and access to it has been denied by the Harper government.
The Canadian Science Writers Association president Kathryn O’Hara wrote a letter to all candidates during the 2011 elections, giving clear examples of the control exerted by the Harper government to deny media access to scientists.
Moreover they show clear examples of how international media did have unrestricted access to our Canadian scientists and their research.
Seems like the Harper government wants to keep a shiny international image while keeping Canadians in the dark.
The gate keeper is deciding what information you and I get to see, is this truly a free and democratic society?