Public Values

Civil Society muzzled at G20

It's media apartheid – Kumi Naidoo, Greenpeace

This is media apartheid - Kumi Naidoo, GreenpeaceTORONTO, June 27, 2010: The Harper government, in direct opposition to past G8 practice, relegated civil society – international and national nongovernmental organizations (NGOs), trade and student unions, bloggers and effectively all critical voices – to an "alternative media center", isolating them from the 2,000+ journalists and media gathered in Toronto to cover the Summits.

"This is media apartheid' said Kumi Naidoo, co-chair of the Global Call to Action Against Poverty and Executive Director of Greenpeace International, on the media arrangements. "No recent G8 Summit has restricted the space to independent and critical voices like Canada has done here in Toronto. This is a setback to any chances of accountability and transparency at the G8 and G20 Summits." Naidoo added, "This is especially egregious given that Harper has instituted the B20 that has brought together top business leaders from the G20 and has privileged their voices over that of civil society."

A reporter who had been to other summits told Straight Goods News this was the least open of all. "Even Russia was more open."

In all recent G8 summits, including the UK, Russia, Japan, German and Italian events, media passes were made available for civil society. This allowed NGOs to access the international media centre to brief the media and engage with government delegations during the summit. For the Muskoka G8 and Toronto G20, however, the Canadian government has set up an 'Alternative Media Centre' separated from the main media centre by a 12 foot chain-link fence. While some NGOs have been given access, and some NGOs were able to obtain temporary day passes to the main media centre, the process is long and cumbersome. Also, the government did not provide facilities for civil society to hold press conferences in the Alternative Media Centre.

The media system adopted in Toronto is a clear attempt to limit access and dampen voices that present an independent view of the G8 and G20 Summits. Civil society is vital for an open and transparent system of global accountability and gives a critical and independent perspective to the world's media. This rejection of their role has angered many civil society leaders and representatives.

'The Canadian government should be ashamed of their segregation of civil society at the summits. We expected Canada to be a shining example of press freedom and transparency" said Vitaliy Kartamyshev of GCAP Russia, "Who would have thought this would be one of the most restrictive G8s in terms of civil society voices."

Posted: June 28, 2010

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