Faced with a national storm of outrage, an embarrassed Rachel Notley backed away from her illegal blacklist of journalists. That blacklist had a single name on it: TheRebel.media — and anyone even “connected” to us.
The only problem is, that’s illegal. Governments in Canada can’t regulate journalists, or restrict who is allowed to enter public buildings like the Legislature, based on political vendettas.
Notley’s blacklist wasn’t a casual or thoughtless decision. It was carefully considered, lawyered and surely approved by the Premier herself. She even had the temerity to order a Department of Justice to send it to us:
Well, that’s un-Canadian, and Canada overwhelmingly told her so. Notley’s shocking attempt to ban journalists she doesn’t like dominated national news, trended on Twitter and Facebook, and even made international headlines.
So today, a Notley spin-doctor issued this statement:
"We’ve heard a lot of feedback from Albertans and media over the course of the last two days and it’s clear we made a mistake. The government has appointed former Western Canadian Bureau Chief for Canadian Press, Heather Boyd to consult and give us recommendations on what the government’s media policies should be. In the meantime, no one will be excluded from government media events."
Translation: Notley was fine with being a bully, when she thought she could roll over us, like she rolled over farmers and oilmen.
So, it’s a partial victory. But pay attention to that last line: Notley has hired an “expert” to advise her on how to handle troublesome journalists. The lifting of the blacklist is only “in the meantime”. Notley may well revert to a policy of government-regulated journalism, if her hand-picked advisor can find a way to spin it.
But the law is clear: we have freedom of the press in Canada. No matter what Notley or her hand-picked advisors say. Governments do not have the power to regulate journalists. And any blacklist barring journalists from public events based on political vendettas is obviously illegal discrimination.
So: it’s a partial win — a win for freedom, and for Albertans who want independent journalism. But there’s a massive loophole built right into it, for Notley to come back and regulate later.
Rachel Notley is a bully. She just couldn’t get away with it this time. But she’s not done trying. She’s taken no personal responsibility for this illegal blacklist. The unsigned statement’s passive tone — mistakes were made — shows Notley is genetically incapable of saying “sorry”. Not to our reporters Sheila Gunn Reid and Holly Nicholas — Notley never would, and it worthless to us. But saying sorry to Albertans, for sacrificing their culture of freedom to “get even” with her critics.
As to The Rebel, we’re going to keep doing our unique brand of journalism — news, opinion and activism. We obviously are covering it in a way that no-one else is — a way that Albertans love, and Notley hates. That’s a pretty good form of media accreditation, don’t you think?
We're going to keep reporting the truth about Notley. Because Albertans love it, and she hates it.
P.S. We will be demanding that the Department of Justice officially confirm that the illegal blacklist is removed, and is removed permanently. If Notley tries to weasel her way back to another blacklist, we’ll just have to do this all over again — until she accepts freedom of the press on her own, or a judge tells her to.
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