Legal bullying (and more) vs free journalism

di Joe Volpe del March 15, 2019

TORONTO - One of Life’s ironies in Canada is that we call ourselves “an open, transparent, democratic society, welcoming, multicultural and celebrated defender of Human Rights everywhere”.

Unless there’s money to be made doing something else, then the Rule of Law can be set aside. That’s the lesson of the SNC Lavalin affair. “It’s the way of the world”, say the defenders of a company that has earned a reputation for bribery, corruption and fraud in places like Libya, Bangladesh, etc.

The sad part of the tale is that [some] Canadians shrug their shoulders and say “that’s business”; one needs “deep pockets” to navigate “the rules in third world countries”.

In First World Countries, you need friends in high places and an army of lawyers. That’s the biggest, busiest, most visible corps of “business agents” in Trump’s USA, and increasingly so in Canada.

Trump is also the Commander- in-Chief of the largest army in the world – by far. Its annual budget (approximately $ 1 trillion CDN) is the equivalent to 50% of Canada’s GDP. That’s a “lot of muscle”.

Happily, he threatens its use in foreign lands, and primarily, it seems, to obtain commercial leverage for American businesses and in support of repressive organizations to secure it.

Companies like SNC Lavalin, who don’t have that advantage, are still willing to empty their “deep pockets”, nurture the aspirations of petty tyrants who need “lubricant” to hire and maintain an army of mercenaries (gangsters) to suppress some of the freedoms we have come to take for granted.

The danger lies in the fact that the ensuing corporate culture is re-imported back into Canada. What stands in the way? Transparency and openness. It may be self-serving but that calls for a Free and unfettered Press, the Fourth Estate, that shines a light on haughtiness, arrogance, privilege and abuse of position and power.

It is the only protection against petty tyranny and its practitioners. Happy are we in Canada where the worst that can be done to those with flashlights and voice is a threat to visit them with legal bullying for alleged defamation and libel. An impartial Court will decide. Elsewhere, beatings, jailings and worse are the order of the day.

We can learn from the experience of others. Thomas Saras, President of the National Ethnic Press and Media Council of Canada, in a recent meeting of its Executive, was asked what the relationship between the new government of Ontario and the NEPMCC would be like given the public expressions of the new Premier.

Saras, who had “crossed pens” with government thugs in more youthful days in his native Greece – and suffered the consequences – responded thus: “I am a personal friend of any political figure who occupies office [or positions of public trust] by virtue of the public’s will; but I have a professional obligation to be clinical and analytical that takes precedence over my personal preferences. I hope the two will not conflict.

If they were to, I know what I need to do”. In Monday’s executive meeting several representatives from Toronto’s growing Kurdish community called on affiliated members to highlight the plight of Yusuf Iba, a fellow journalist from the “Kurdistan region” of the Greater Middle East.

Iba has joined and international hunger strike in support of Kurdish MP in Turkey’s Parliament, Leyla Guven, jailed in January of 2018 for her criticisms of the country’s invasion of Afrin in Northern Syria.

She has been on a hunger strike since November 8, 2018. There is a growing number of journalists worldwide who have joined her to draw attention to the systematic harassments, beatings, incarcerations of people who dare express a view contrary to that of the government. Iba has been on this hunger strike for 60 days.

As one of the intervenors expressed an aspect of the dilemma of Kurds: if you don’t have territory, you don’t have rights. Supporters should communicate with

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