International Reaction to Firing of Mills

Tuesday, June 18, 2002
The decision by CanWest Global Communications Corp. to dismiss Russell Mills from the post of publisher of the Ottawa Citizen has sent shockwaves through the international journalistic community. What follows is the verbatim text of a statement released today by the Vienna-based International Press Institute, which says Canada's "outstanding reputation for freedom of the press has been badly damaged" by the firing. We offer it for the information of CJFE members and others interested in the promotion and defence of freedom of expression and a free press. _________________ PRESS RELEASE Vienna, 18 June 2002 IPI Condemns Firing of Canadian Publisher Canada's outstanding reputation for freedom of the press has been badly damaged by the actions of media conglomerate CanWest Global Communications Corp., the International Press Institute (IPI) said in a strongly worded protest on Tuesday, 18 June. Russell Mills, publisher of the daily Ottawa Citizen, was fired late on Sunday, 16 June, on the grounds that he had not consulted corporate head office before publishing a major article alleging misconduct by Prime Minister Jean Chretien and an editorial calling for the prime minister to resign. Mills said there was no requirement to consult head office. Johann P. Fritz, Director of IPI, said that firing Mills raised alarming questions about links between CanWest's owners, the Asper family of Winnipeg, and Canada's Liberal government. "It is an attack on press freedom by an unholy coalition between politics and big business," Fritz said. "Many believe that it is only in autocratic countries of the Third World or in countries in transition that democracy and a free press are in danger. But the Mills affair will have a chilling effect on critical reporting in Canada and will bring an increase in self-censorship." CanWest has also been accused by journalists of trying to limit press freedom in Canada because of its policy of requiring member newspapers to run identical editorials from head office twice a week. Fritz urged CanWest to abandon its new policy and return to a state where its many distinguished editors had full freedom to comment on all major issues. Otherwise Canada's democratic diversity of views was at serious risk, he said. The Vienna-based IPI is a global network of editors, media executives and leading journalists from newspapers, magazines, broadcasting organisations and news agencies in over 110 countries. International Press Institute (IPI) Spiegelgasse 2/29 A-1010Vienna, Austria Tel: + 431-512 90 11 Fax: + 431-512 90 14 E-mail: ipi@freemedia.at http://www.freemedia.at __________________ For more information, please contact Joel Ruimy at CJFE, tel: 416 515 9622, fax: 416 515 7879, email: ruimy@cjfe.org.

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