BCCLA calls for transparency in press accreditation at Kananaskis G8 summit

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The British Columbia Civil Liberties Association is calling for transparency in the process used by the RCMP to issue media credentials to journalists and photographers. Elaine Brière, an award-winning photo journalist hired by the Canadian Labour Congress to take photographs at the summit, was refused accreditation by the RCMP and called on the Association for assistance.

Ms. Brière has previously been accredited for summits at Quebec City and Seattle without incident.

When the Association attempted to determine the criteria used by the RCMP to accredit journalists, Staff Sergeant Redl, the officer who denied accreditation to Ms. Brière, would not release the information, suggesting it was “Protected B” and that the Association would need to use Access to Information to obtain a copy.

What information the Association has been able to obtain regarding the criteria indicates they are vague and open to abuse. In particular, those relating to “mental instability”, “anti-social behaviour” and political ties to “groups of an extremist or subversive nature” are troubling.

“It is inappropriate to use Access to Information or similar legislation as a hurdle or a delaying tactic to prevent information from being released to the public,” notes Lindsay Lyster, Policy Director for the Association. “There is no reason why the criteria used should not be made public and the process be made transparent.”

Despite the RCMP’s refusal to release this information, the BCCLA has obtained the following information about the process. The initial request goes to the Accreditation Supervisor. If the request is declined, it is passed to Staff Sergeant Redl. If he does not approve the request, it goes to a committee of RCMP who further undertake a review of the application. A negative recommendation from this committee is finally reviewed by the “G8 Summit Management Office” who makes a final decision.

It is unclear what the membership of the committee or the “Summit Management Office” is, and what relationships these groups have with the Prime Minister’s Office.

The BCCLA has received reports of other members of the media not receiving accreditation. The RCMP has refused to give individuals who have been denied accreditation any information as to the reasons for the denial, again advising them to use Access to Information.

“Individuals who have been denied accreditation should be told the reasons for that decision,” notes Lyster. “In the absence of that information, we fear that political affiliation alone is the basis for non-accreditation. The police and summit organizers need to come clean about this to avoid another APEC fiasco.”

The BCCLA is calling on the Solicitor General to direct the RCMP to ensure this process is fair, transparent and free of political interference.