CJFE Calls on CanWest to Rehire Mills

Monday, June 17, 2002

Canadian Journalists for Free Expression (CJFE) is appalled at the decision by CanWest Global Communications Corp. to fire Russell Mills from the post of publisher of the Ottawa Citizen.

"With this ill-considered move, CanWest Global has damaged its own credibility and risks injuring that of the wider Canadian journalistic community," CJFE Executive Director Joel Ruimy said.

"We urge CanWest to reinstate Mr. Mills and to cease what appears to be a concerted series of attacks on its own employees."

This latest incident makes a mockery of CanWest's submission to the federal Heritage Committee on Sept. 10, 2001, when the company said of the newspaper properties it had earlier acquired:

"Each of our metropolitan and local newspapers is a strong player in its own community. Each is relentlessly local in its coverage and fiercely independent in its editorial policy. Under CanWest's ownership, that will not change. On the contrary, CanWest understands that the success of our newspapers is due largely to their ability, in their editorial policies, to mirror the interests and values of their local readers. Consistent with our undertakings to the CRTC, CanWest will maintain policies of individual editorial integrity in the operation of our television and newspaper properties."

CanWest, like any newspaper proprietor, has the right to impose an editorial line on its newspapers. But it has abused this right by dismissing or disciplining not just a publisher but reporters and columnists who dare to challenge its corporate views in public. CanWest readers are also within their rights to ask why Canada's largest newspaper chain chooses to suppress divergent perspectives developed by its own employees, who are highly respected journalists with a long tradition of serving their communities.

In this latest incident, Mills quoted a senior CanWest executive as saying he lost his job because he failed to submit to head office in advance of publication an article and an editorial on the scandals surrounding the Prime Minister.

This is not a simple disagreement over editorial policy; CanWest has chosen to terminate a longtime publisher whose newspaper addressed a matter of serious importance to all Canadians.

According to its web site, CanWest's Canadian television operations have the potential to reach 94 per cent of English-language viewers. Its daily newspapers account for 41 per cent of English-language daily circulation; even when French-language newspapers are factored in, CanWest accounts for one-third of Canadian daily newspaper circulation, according to the latest available statistics from the Canadian Newspaper Association.

CJFE is an association of journalists and others committed to promoting and defending press rights and freedom of expression in Canada and around the world.

For more information, please contact Joel Ruimy at CJFE, tel: 416 515 9622, fax: 416 515 7879, email: [email protected].