Stephen Taylor, one of my blogger pals from our northern neighbor, has covered the Canadian parliament for quite a while, and has built a well-deserved reputation for professionalism in Canada. He requested and received access to several secure areas of Parliament Hill in order to interview various MPs from the Speaker of the House. While exercising that access by speaking with and taking photographs of his subjects, members of the Canadian press decided that they had had enough of an upstart blogger — and had him removed, passes and all:
I left the hallway outside of the foyer and walked over to the railway room to interview some ‘stakeholders’ of the budget. This went off without incident and during that time, I cheerfully chatted with some reporters that were in the same room.
Having completed my interviews with the stakeholders, I left and headed on over to the Rotunda where I had a friendly chat with Jack Layton. Elizabeth May and her assistant were also hanging around chatting when I saw Gilles Duceppe of the Bloc walk by. Having heard that his party was the lone opposition party supporting the budget, I asked him for an interview. He agreed. After the interview something ugly happened.
An official from the Press Gallery walked over and informed me that he had received “complaints” about me. “Thompson?” I inquired. “Complaints”, he seemed to acknowledge. I pointed out that we were currently in the Rotunda of Parliament and that my pass allowed me to be there. “But you have a camera” he informed me. He called over a security guard to escort me from Parliament. …
Yes, the Parliamentary Press Gallery, with no powers granted to it by constitution or statute, used security to remove somebody who had the right to be present on the Hill granted to him by the Speaker of the House.
I’m not familiar with the rules for press access to Parliament in Ottawa, but I’m certain that the Speaker must be. If his office granted Stephen a pass to the areas in which he operated, it seems more than a little strange that the press liaison would have him ejected, especially for bringing a camera. Has the Parliamentary Press Gallery never heard of photography? Do they draw pictures for their newspapers instead of printing pictures?
I have had the pleasure of traveling twice to Canada and meeting the bloggers of the North. They told me at the time that the Canadian blogosphere was not as well established as the American blogosphere, but it wasn’t from lack of talent. I wonder if the Canadian press has started to fear the rise of Canada’s bloggers and have decided to use petty tricks to kneecap these independent journalists and pundits. If this is an indication of the professionalism of the PPG — and I hope it isn’t — then they should fear the bloggers.