Newspaper article The Canadian Press

Press Gallery Should Control Access to Alberta Legislature Media Events: Report

Newspaper article The Canadian Press

Press Gallery Should Control Access to Alberta Legislature Media Events: Report

Article excerpt

Reporters should control press access: report

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EDMONTON - A review into who should be allowed to ask questions at Alberta legislature news conferences says reporters should be the ones to make the call.

Heather Boyd, retired Western Canadian bureau chief for The Canadian Press, cautions that a reporter's political slant or point of view shouldn't be considered in determining access to media events. The issue is becoming more prevalent as online outlets and social media blur distinctions between reporters and the public they serve.

"Nobody can define a journalist anymore," Boyd said after her report was released Friday. "I suspect, over time, the rules are going to have to change."

The provincial government said it will accept all of Boyd's recommendations.

But Ezra Levant, whose conservative online publication The Rebel sparked the review, called Boyd's major recommendations unacceptable and unconstitutional.

"This is a big-government solution in search of a problem that does not exist," he said.

Questions arose last month after the NDP government refused to admit a reporter from The Rebel to a joint news conference with Premier Rachel Notley and Prime Minister Justin Trudeau at the legislature.

Boyd recommends that decisions about accreditation should be made by the legislature's press gallery, which consists of reporters who regularly cover politics.

"This protects government from the perception of bias," Boyd wrote in her report.

"This is not a perfect solution, and several journalists have made it clear they do not believe they should be subject in any way to control by their peers, but it appears to be the best compromise."

The arrangement is common in other provincial legislatures as well as in the Parliamentary Press Gallery in Ottawa. It has also been the practice in the Alberta press gallery.

Boyd acknowledges in her report that the Alberta press gallery told her it doesn't have the resources to vet and police gallery applicants.

She recommends resources be provided by the independent Office of the Speaker. Such assistance is provided in Ottawa and in Quebec's National Assembly.

Boyd said it would be up to the gallery to ensure it maintained control. …

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