I will be blogging the Reporters Without Borders panel, talking about issues surrounding national security and freedom of the press.
The panel will be hosted by Shawn McCarthy, president of The Canadian Committee of World Press Freedom and global energy reporter for The Globe & Mail.
Panellists include Wesley Wark, intelligence specialist and prof from U Of O Graduate School of International and Public Affairs; Jeff Sallot, former Globe & Mail journalist, and Alex Wilner, both profs at Carleton U; Batoul Hreiche, a Carleton Master's candidate.
This is the seventh academic panel hosted by RRRA, the residence association at Carleton. It is the first with a journalistic theme, says RRRA president Graham A. Pendregosa.
Will discuss intersection between rights to press freedom and right to security, says McCarthy.
Wilner: "The division between safety and privacy falls between the cracks in Canada." Tensions between right to security and press freedom fall behind the party in power, more privacy under Liberal government.
Wark: "We operate in a culture of secrecy which is resistant to change."
Wark says secrecy vs. openness like a "coy dance": gov officials convey what they want through the media, other party desperately trying to crack the messaging.
"In this country we're not great at dancing." - Wark
Sallot: "Governments like secrecy." If we break the law, we don't want someone looking over our shoulders. Press plays important watchdog function.
Sallot: "Journalists are at the end of this link," insiders with consciences are important, i.e. Edward Snowden.
Hreiche: "There is no privacy anymore." Calls for Trudeau gov. and Canada to be more open about security operations.
Wark: In the past, whistleblowers would act on conscience related to a specific, focused issue. Now, it's a product of changing nature of communications. "It's all about industrial-scale whistleblowing."
Snowden as example, didn't make an effort to clearly differentiate between what's important and what isn't. It's important to make distinctions with industrial-scale whistleblowers.
Hreiche: People have become "nonchalant" about balance between secrecy and openness in the gov., more focused on self privacy. Sees the positive potential in leaking.
McCarthy: Is there a backlash to the sharing, open "culture of leaking"?
Sallot: US gov sees leaking as a dangerous thing. There is a silence now but "people will become emboldened again and stand up."
Wark: There are high secrecy levels because, from gov perspective, there is little value in the public knowing more.
Sallot: Politicians can't expect total confidentiality from their officials concerning the media and then also talk to journalists themselves for public sway.
Wilner: sometimes gov labels things as "secret" as a workaround, is the leak culture just lazy?
Wark agrees there's an over-classification problem within the federal gov. There's a distinction between "secret" and "top secret." Stuff WIlner wouldn't be able to see from his one year working for the government.
Wark: There's an element of trust and fairness surrounding the Canadian media.
Wark feels uncomfortable in a situation where the media has the final call in the face of a juicy story that could have negative repercussions.
McCarthy moves conversation to issues surrounding Bill C-51.
Hreiche: main issue is vague language surrounding grounds for arrest in terrorism charges. You no longer have to be directly involved in a terrorist activity. Freedom of expression and freedom of the press will be negatively impacted. "Innocent" online communications suddenly can be used against us.
It's important not to over-exaggerate fears related to C-51, says Wark. A renewed debate on C-51 should wait for amendments planned by Liberal gov.
Sallot: "Journalism is becoming much more fragmented." Major news orgs don't have to worry about C-51's vague wording, but smaller independent publications and journalists do.
C-51: can be charged with terrorism whether there was intention to support terrorism or not.
Wilner: "I think there are deep flaws with the bill." Does not have an alternative, doesn't know where the black and white is.
Sallot: People paying for secret government activities qualifies as need-to-know. Wark says there are boundaries between gov secrets and public information.
The panel ends on a positive note with hopes of reform.