Times Colonist editorial goes straight to the heart of the darkness that lurks within the Harper government.
A group of professors at the University of Victoria has asked the
federal information commissioner to investigate the muzzling of
government scientists. The university’s Environmental Law Centre is
concerned that experts employed by the federal government have been
prevented from speaking about their work.
A brief filed by the centre notes that media calls to federal agencies
are routinely diverted to a central communications office. Scientists
themselves are not allowed to talk with reporters.
The complaint is entirely accurate. That is indeed what happens.
...By imposing a code of silence on public servants, politicians make
themselves unaccountable. By ensuring that only their version of events
is heard, they stifle meaningful inquiry.
And they imply that the basic working mechanisms of government are
wholly within their command and control. This is a subversive doctrine.
It turns a public interest — the running of programs we all own and pay
for — into a political franchise.
The editorial laments that this contagion is spreading and has been adopted by the neoconservative B.C. Liberal government and institutions beyond government.
The policy of silence is not confined to Ottawa, and scientists are by no means the only ones being muzzled.
Phone any branch of the B.C. government from a newspaper desk, and the
inquiry will be routed to a media-relations specialist. If by chance you
get through to ministry program staff, you will be told they can’t
speak to you.
Even if the matter is purely factual and devoid of political
ramifications, the rule has no exceptions. Public servants may not speak
to reporters. Other provinces also enforce this policy, and it extends
much further than government.
Our politicians value their curtain of silence: They won’t give it up without a fight