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To the news media specifically, the Supreme Court of Canada has attributed
further importance. The court has recognized that the work of an
active media, allowed to access and publish information about institutions
of government, equips citizens to know, and form informed judgments
about matters in which they would not ordinarily participate directly.
In words that seem even more eloquent when contrasted to the tweets of
his U.S. counterpart, Prime Minister Trudeau acknowledged on World Press
Freedom Day in May 2018 that “a free press helps build stronger and healthier
societies” and said that “Canada will always defend journalistic freedom
and stand against any violence, intimidation, censorship, and false arrests
used to silence journalists.” Indeed, in further striking contrast to ugly rhetoric
and revoked press passes in the United States, he continued: “On behalf
of Canadians, I thank all the journalists in this country and around the world
who seek out truth, unravel fact from fiction, bring clarity and fairness to
public debate, and encourage us to open ourselves to new perspectives.”3
Words are not enough but do mark the respect due to journalistic endeavours.
This is not to say that journalists are in every instance responsible in
their reporting; of course there are occasions on which this might be disputed.
However, journalists—especially those who identify themselves by
name and work for recognized media organizations—are held to codes of
conduct, face employment sanctions and are ultimately subject to legal proceedings
or loss of readership as checks against misconduct.
Beyond words, the federal government has instituted economic measures
that may assist newsrooms to employ dedicated reporters and editors
and to generate and refine stories that can meet the standards noted above.
The threats to a free press now are not just governments against which
there is constitutional protection but also economics against which there is
not. As long as their role does not include shaping content, governments
may play a useful role in fending off the economic threat.
In November 2018 the federal Minister of Finance noted that “to protect
the vital role that independent news media play in our democracy and in
our communities, we will be introducing measures to help support journalism
in Canada.”4 The Fall Economic Statement 2018 recognizes that “a
strong and independent news media is crucial to a well-functioning democracy”
as “it empowers citizens by providing them with the information
they need to make informed decisions on important issues, and also serves
to hold powerful institutions—including governments—to account by bringing
to light information that might not otherwise be made available to the
public”.5 The statement recognizes certain of the challenges:
In recent years, changes in technology and in the way that Canadians
consume news have made it difficult for many news outlets to find and