The University of Ottawa has been accused of obstructing press freedom

Thousands of Chinese have taken to the streets in Beijing, Shanghai, Wuhan and several other Chinese cities for several days to protest the policy. zero covidThe Chinese ambassador to Canada held a conference at the University of Ottawa on the topic: : développement, commerce et gouvernance au XXIesiècle”,”text”:”La Chine et le monde: développement, commerce et gouvernance au XXIesiècle”}}”>China and the World: Development, Trade and Governance in the 21ste century.

Chinese Ambassador Kong Peiwu asked the University of Ottawa to remove the cameras from the lecture hall. (Archives)

Photo: Radio-Canada / Ivanoh Demers

Journalists from various media outlets were there, and suddenly the university agreed to comply with the ambassador’s demands forbidding the presence of cameras in the room. A Radio-Canada operator was shown the door.

In addition, the University continued to lower the blinds to hide a simultaneous pro-Uyghur demonstration in front of the building.

Criticized decision

A decision that did not go down well with the Prime Minister of Canada.

They made a mistake by banning cameras for me. In Canada, we are mostly open to people with public profiles. The media should have access. »

quote from Justin Trudeau, Prime Minister of Canada

Several politicians and experts have also stepped forward to condemn the University’s decision.

Canadian Heritage Minister Pablo Rodríguez said press freedom should have taken precedence over the ambassador’s wishes. “I find it very unfortunate. Our country was founded on the principle of freedom. We are always happy to see you [les journalistes], sometimes less. But you still have work to do to be there. Freedom of the press is not discussed in Canada.”

Yves-François Blanchet, leader of the Bloc Québécois, said he was concerned about the message the University of Ottawa was sending to young people.

: as-tu un planB s’il te plaît”,”text”:”Il faut rappeler à l’Université d’Ottawa que le mot diplomate ne s’applique pas aussi facilement à quelqu’un qui représente le Parti communiste chinois. On parle plus d’intimidateur. Que l’Université d’Ottawa se soit prêtée à ça me semble indigne d’une institution qui est censée jouer un rôle fort auprès d’une jeunesse. Si un de mes enfants me disait que ça lui tente d’aller à l’Université d’Ottawa, je lui dirai: as-tu un planB s’il te plaît”}}”>We should remind the University of Ottawa that the word diplomat does not apply so easily to someone representing the Chinese Communist Party. We are talking about more violence. For the University of Ottawa to lend it seems to me unbecoming of an institution that should be playing a strong role with young people. If one of my children told me he wanted to go to the University of Ottawa, I would say to him: Do you have a plan B?he argued.

New Democratic Party leader Jagmeet Singh emphasized the importance of Canada’s democratic values.

We must have transparency and support media freedom. This is the basis for a democratic society. I do not know the details of this decision, but I can say that as Prime Minister, my values ​​will continue to be transparency.he commented.

According to Marc-François Bernier, a professor of journalism at the University of Ottawa, the decision is “undemocratic”, especially for the university’s digital journalism program.

This event scares me. This is an underestimation of press freedom. It seems to me that the conversation is a matter of principle. Prioritizing freedom of the press and freedom of expression in a country like Canada is a matter of consistencyhe shouts.

According to Mr. Bernier, the University of Ottawa could have gained more by standing firm with the ambassador.

If the conference were to be cancelled, it would not be the University that would play a bad role. He is the Chinese ambassador. Currently, the evil role is still the University of Ottawa, which is under threat or pressure from a totalitarian and authoritarian vision or concept of freedom of expression.he argued.

In turn, the president of the Professional Federation of Quebec Journalists, Michael Nguyen, condemned the decision.

“It’s a slippery slope, it’s very dangerous, and mark my words when I say that in Canada we have to be able to respect the Canadian code of practice for journalism,” he said.

Michael Nguyen.

Michael Nguyen, President of the Professional Federation of Quebec Journalists (Archives)

Photo: Radio-Canada

In a written statement issued by the department of media relations, the University of Ottawa stressed that there is a risk of cancellation of the conference if the cameras are accepted, and reminded that journalists have access to it. He also promised to do things differently next time.

In order to prevent this unpleasant situation from happening again, the University will try to be more clear with its teachers before taking actions regarding the possibility of electronic media in the future.University of Ottawa spokesman Jesse Robichaud said in a written statement.

With information from Louis Blouin

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