Tuesday, May 6, 2008Canadian Journalists for Free Expression (CJFE) is dismayed by the Harper government's decision to discontinue operation of the CAIRS database. This database was not only a vital resource to journalists, but was also an important tool for all Canadians in having access to information about the actions of the government. Ironically, news of the decision became public just days after the UNESCO World Press Freedom Day. The theme of this year's celebration, marked around the world on May 3, was access to information and empowerment of people. As stated on the UNESCO site "Information is power. Freedom of Information and Freedom of Expression work against the concentration of information within the hands of a few." The Coordination of Access to Information Requests System or CAIRS database gave the public access to every information request filed with the government. Although originally designed as an internal tracking tool, the database was important in making government information more accessible to the public. "What we have lost here is a system that allowed all of us, not just journalists, the ability to hold the government accountable," stated CJFE President Arnold Amber. "No matter what reasons the government gives for cutting the service, this can only be seen as a step backwards towards less transparency, less openness." In its letter to the Treasury Board, CJFE asserted that although the database may not be valued by government departments, it most certainly is valued by the Canadian media and public. Canadian Journalists for Free Expression (CJFE) is an association of more than 300 journalists, editors, publishers, producers, students and others who work to promote and defend free expression and press freedom in Canada and around the world.
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