Mayor’s boycott of Toronto Star reporters a threat to all journalists: The union representing journalists, and other employees, at the Toronto Star is throwing its weight behind complaints against Toronto Mayor Rob Ford’s boycott of Star reporters. Paul Morse, president of Local 87-M of the Communications, Energy and Paperworkers Union of Canada (CEP), says Ford’s decision not to include Star reporters in emails about city events and press releases threatens the ability of all reporters to do their job and, ultimately, for the electorate to be able to judge the performance of their politicians.
Morse notes that meeting notices and press releases are issued by the city about public events and the spending of public money. As such, they are public documents that must be made available to the public, including Star reporters.
“These are documents created by public servants, about public issues, paid for by public taxes,” Morse said. “That makes them public documents, not the private property of Mayor Ford. “
“Here you have someone who ran on a platform of respecting the taxpayer, who’s slapping the face of the public who elected him. It’s an incredible show of disrespect for the taxpayer and an abuse of power.”
Morse noted that CEP Local 87-M represents 35 media workplaces across Ontario and that friction between elected officials and reporters commonly occurs in the political reporting process and reflects democracy at work.
Ford, however, has taken the drastic step of banning a news outlet from receiving press releases and other announcements. Morse said is conceivable that Ford, if left unchallenged, will begin excluding other news outlets as a way of controlling the information to taxpayers. Other politicians will no doubt follow his lead, ultimately threatening freedom of information and expression in all municipalities.
John Honderich, chair of Torstar Corp., wrote last week that the Star would file a complaint with city council’s integrity commissioner over the mayor’s exclusion of its reporters from the email list he uses to notify the media of his appearances and public statements.
Ford has stated he won’t lift the ban until the Star makes a front-page apology for an article that appeared more than a year ago that he says was false. In a recent radio interview, however, the mayor noted that he is generally displeased with the Star’s stories about him.
The CEP Local 87-M media union will do whatever it can to support The Star’s complaint, Morse said.