Friday, April 7, 2006

validating the need for a muzzle

local paper republishes mayes brighter moments

Mayes retracts jail remarks
Friday AM - Salmon Arm, April 7

NATIONAL SPOTLIGHT ON FORMER MAYOR
OTTAWA- A British Columbia
The follow up story by Globe & Mail (Saturday, April 1, 2006, Page A8), staffer Bill Curry is reprinted below:


{'“It's ironic that somebody who himself is subject to legal action for libel and defamation would talk about journalists distorting the truth. That's a bit rich,” he said.

Mr. Mayes said he denies the accusations in the lawsuit and the matter is now in the hands of the City of Salmon Arm. A city official would not comment on the case.'}


Conservative MP has apologized, after he was contacted by the Prime Minister's Office, for saying it may be time for journalists to be “hauled off in handcuffs” for writing misleading stories.

Colin Mayes, the new MP for Okanagan-Shuswap, said in an interview yesterday that it was a rookie mistake to send a column to several newspapers this week commenting on Prime Minister Stephen Harper's relations with the media.

He also issued a written retraction of the remarks.

Mr. Mayes's column objected to what he said was a picture being painted of Mr. Harper's government that suggests it is not open and transparent.

"There is another group that has the public trust and that is the media," the column said. "Not all media, politicians and business executives are bad. Boy, would the public get accurate and true information if a few reporters were hauled away to jail!

“Maybe it is time that we hauled off in handcuffs reporters that fabricate stories, or twist information and even falsely accuse citizens. We know this will never happen because the media would cry 'censorship,' 'authoritarian state,' and all would be aghast, but the truth is we need ethical leadership from the media too!”

Liberal MP Dominic LeBlanc said the comments show a “huge contempt” for the media.

“I think it has be seen in the context of an increasing pattern to hide from legitimate democratic scrutiny. This is a government that bullied and intimidated the Ethics Commissioner, then they hold secret cabinet meetings and refuse to answer legitimate questions from the free press and then one of their own falls off the wagon and writes an offensive piece [for] a newspaper which probably denotes the true feelings of Mr. Harper and his colleagues," he said.

Mr. LeBlanc said that Mr. Mayes was sued for allegedly writing malicious comments about a mayoral candidate when he was the mayor of Salmon Arm.

“It's ironic that somebody who himself is subject to legal action for libel and defamation would talk about journalists distorting the truth. That's a bit rich,” he said.

Mr. Mayes said he denies the accusations in the lawsuit and the matter is now in the hands of the City of Salmon Arm. A city official would not comment on the case.

"I sincerely do apologize for using that analogy [of imprisoning journalists]," Mr. Mayes said. "I'm a rookie MP, give me a break, but obviously this is a good lesson learned."

St├ęphane Rondeau, a spokesman for the Prime Minister's Office, said the office spoke with Mr. Mayes yesterday when the remarks surfaced.

"Let me put it this way: We asked for a clarification of what he meant and when he found out the implications of what he was saying, he decided to issue the retraction," he said.

"We're not going to tell him what to say, but certainly we don't agree with jailing journalists. We think we have a terrific relationship with most [reporters]."

Mr. Mayes's statement says he retracts the comments “without reservation” and that he sincerely apologizes for any disrespect or ill feelings that they may have caused.

“I would like to make it very clear that I fully respect the freedom of the press,” he says in the statement.

Mr. Mayes's assistant Jeannette Gasparini explained that the original column was meant to be tongue in cheek and he was not proposing any new laws be imposed on journalists.

Mr. Harper has restricted access to ministers after cabinet meetings and barred reporters from observing photo opportunities. Ministers are also required to restrict their public comments to the government's five key priorities and clear contacts with the media through the Prime Minister's Office.

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