CBC Refuses to Testify at Senate Committee on Islamophobia, Citing Journalistic Independence

by EditorT

Senate Speaker speaks before the throne speech in the Senate chamber on September 23, 2020, in Ottawa. (Photo by BLAIR GABLE/POOL/AFP via Getty Images)

By Marnie Cathcart

The Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (CBC) has refused to answer questions posed by a Senate committee studying Islamophobia, citing journalistic independence.

Shaun Poulter, CBC’s executive director for public affairs and government relations, in a March 2 letter declined the request of the Senate’s Standing Committee on Human Rights to meet with CBC/Radio-Canada “news leaders,” as reported by Blacklocks’ Reporter.

“It would not be appropriate for our editorial leaders to also be participants in the Committee’s work. Our journalists regularly report on issues like Islamophobia, and must do so independently,” said Poulter’s letter.

He said journalists “cannot risk being perceived as advocates or agents subject to a Committee’s scrutiny and recommendations.”

“Senators questioning news leaders about their editorial decisions and practices undermines the journalistic independence guaranteed in the Broadcasting Act,” he added.

CBC Director of Media Relations Leon Mar was asked why CBC managers, executives, or directors, who were not on the front-line reporting news, were unable to cooperate with a Senate committee.

Mar told The Epoch Times that any questions on the topic “should be put to the [Senate] Committee.”

“I don’t have anything further for you,” he said.

Poulter’s letter to the Senate committee listed some of CBC’s standards and policies on journalism. He stated CBC does not mention “national or ethnic origin, colour, religious affiliation, physical characteristics or disabilities, mental illness, sexual orientation or age except when important to an understanding of the subject” or to help provide identification.

The executive’s letter also indicates that CBC is internally committed to the goal that one out of every two hires or promotions should “come from underrepresented groups.”

Poulter provided the committee with two favourable links to ombudsman findings concerning CBC’s reporting on Islam; however, he did not provide a 2022 ombudsman report that determined that CBC breached its own code of ethics.

The ombudsman’s report followed a website commentary by Zeehaa Rehman, an Elections Canada poll worker, who described herself as Muslim.

The first-person article read, “On Election Day I greeted people who voted for parties that hate people like me. Elections provide numerical evidence of the rise of right-wing politics and that should worry us all.”

“It was jarring to realize that many of the people who had seemingly been nice to me throughout the day had chosen to vote for the Conservative Party,” she wrote.

CBC Ombudsman Jack Nagler declared the article “was not okay.”

“It was not okay to publish a headline that declared political parties and by inference their voters as ‘hating’ people,” he said, adding the CBC article “was neither fair nor precise enough to be considered accurate.”

“Declaring a politician to be hateful should be based on their policies and their actions not just the colour of their lawn signs,” said the ombudsman.

The article was posted for almost a month before being revised.



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