APTN reporter/producer Kenneth Jackson is the winner of the Canadian Committee for World Press Freedom (CCWPF) 2020 Press Freedom Award for his work relentlessly pursuing information on the fate of Indigenous children who died in care in Ontario.
The Press Freedom Award annually recognizes outstanding achievements by Canadian media workers who produce public-interest journalism, while overcoming secrecy, intimidation or other efforts to thwart their work. Jackson’s reporting entailed tracking down relatives on the streets of Thunder Bay, filing access to information requests, and going to court to get access to files in civil lawsuits.
Nova Scotia-based editorial cartoonist Michael de Adder, and freelance journalist and author Joan Baxter, who is also based in Nova Scotia, received honourable mentions.
This year’s Spencer Moore Award for Lifetime Achievement was awarded to David Pugliese, who covers the military beat for The Ottawa Citizen. Pugliese has been a frequent challenger of the Department of National Defence record on Access to Information and over the years has broken several stories on questionable practices in defence procurement.
Ahead of UNESCO World Press Freedom Day on May 3, the CCWPF has released a video featuring leaders from government, business, the environment, and arts organizations, asserting the importance of press freedom, and in particular the important role press freedom is playing in the current pandemic.
Among those appearing in the video are Dr. Sandy Buchman, President of the Canadian Medical Association; Megan Leslie, CEO of WWF-Canada; author Margaret Atwood, Ontario Premier Doug Ford, and Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.
“You hold governments accountable for the decisions they make, including mine, and you make sure people’s voices are heard,” said Trudeau in the video. “We recommit to advancing press freedom across the globe where in too many places journalists are still prevented from doing their work and are persecuted for uncovering the truth.”
Code of Silence
Trudeau’s comments come as the Canadian Association of Journalists (CAJ), Centre for Free Expression at Ryerson University (CFE), News Media Canada and Canadian Journalists for Free Expression (CJFE) awards its annual Code of Silence Award for Outstanding Achievement in Government Secrecy to Environment and Climate Change Canada.
Intended to call attention to governments, government departments and agencies that put extra effort into denying public access to government information, Environment and Climate Change Canada was singled out for a seven-month delay in fulfilling a request from Ottawa Citizen journalist Tom Spears. In the lead-up the federal election, Spears filed an Access to Information request wanting to know if Environment and Climate Change Canada had timed the release of research showing Canada is warming at double the global rate to coincide with their new carbon tax taking effect.
Without access to this kind of information, the organizations say Canadians are increasingly forced to rely on party propaganda to determine who to vote for.
Canadian ‘press freedom tracker’ funded
It was also announced this week that Canada is about to get its own “Press Freedom Tracker.”
J-Source, the site run by the donor-supported Canadian Journalism Project, is the recipient of the new Michener-L. Richard O’Hagan Fellowship for Journalism Education. It’s been awarded $40,000 to support the launch of the Canadian Press Freedom Project, championed by editor-in-chief Sonya Fatah, publisher Christopher Waddell, former managing editor H.G. Watson, and managing editor Steph Wechsler.
Similar to the U.S. Press Freedom Tracker, the J-Source/Canada Press Freedom Project will track examples where press freedom is threatened across the country, with the goal to create a database documenting violations of press freedom.
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