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We're not accountable to media — A-G

by Peter von Stackelberg

 

Attorney-General Roy Romanow blasted the news media April 11 for what he called a lack of courtesy and respect for parliamentary tradition after CKCK-TV reporter Wayne Mantyka showed up at a meeting of the Crown corporations review committee with a camera crew.

Mantyka and the crew recorded and broadcast segments of the committee's discussion of whether the camera should be permitted to record the meeting.

When the camera crew appeared again the following day, it was ordered out by the chairman.

Mantyka said he knew of no rule banning the use of cameras and tape-recorders in the committee room. The committee chairman confirmed that there are no rules—written or otherwise—that ban cameras from committee meetings, but his ruling on the second day of the camera's appearance changed that.

The fuss raised over the issue by the media and the Opposition was clearly an embarrassment for the NDP government, which claims it runs the most open government in Canada.

In a speech in the legislature, Romanow said the actions of the media, and of the CKCK-TV news team in particular, threatened democracy.

"The way this matter has been handled, by the intrusion of the cameras without the express approval by the rules, attacks the fundamental basis of the democratic system."

"As big as the issue of television is, there is the issue of how, and who and when the access of television is decided. And surely to goodness it is not CKCK-TVs decision. It is up to the elected members of this house."

Romanow went on to say that members of the legislature are accountable only to the public and that the news media are not among those whom elected representatives should have to answer to.

"When they talk about accountability, when they say that it is the public's right to know. I want to know what public."

"I go every four years to my public and I get criticized by my opposition and I get elected."

"That's the public's right to know, to scrutinize, and not by some employee of a television station or newspaper."

Romanow and numerous NDP members argued that any changes that would permit television cameras in the
legislature and its committees should go through the rules and procedures committee.

 

Published in SOURCES May-June 1980

 



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