Heather Conn Blogs

spoutin’ about by the sea

Media »« A dog’s breakfast


Whatever happened to free speech?

Detention and interrogation. A vehicle and laptop search. Riffling through reporter notebooks. I found Canadian border officials’ recent treatment of U.S. journalist Amy Goodman a disturbing threat to free speech. 

Host of Democracy Now, a public radio show in the States, Goodman was stopped in a vehicle with two assistants at the Washington-B.C. border on Nov. 25. Visiting Canada to promote her new book, she was en route to Victoria for a speaking engagement. Yet the border guards kept grilling her about the 2010 Winter Olympics, afraid that she was coming to Canada to criticize this world event. What if she was? Is freedom of speech the new contraband?

The guards  interrogated her for more than an hour, reportedly demanding to know the details of Goodman’s planned speech. They asked her at least six times if she was coming to Canada to speak about the Olympics. One border patrol agent looked through her book, Breaking the Sound Barrier, and made notes from it. Goodman said: “I was totally shocked . . .It sends a message that we’re being monitored, watched. . .It sends a message to other journalists to watch what they do.”

Fear of such reprisals might indeed result in unnecessary self-censorship on the part of reporters, both locally and those visiting from around the world. Are we heading for a Big Brother world of Government Think?

We’ve already seen the fallout in Vancouver from “free speech zones” designated for protesters during the Olympics. A gag order targeted for the three-week event prevents the display of any commercial signs that  might compete with the corporate logos and messages of official sponsors like Visa or Royal Bank. Whose interests are we protecting, anyway?

This makes me think of practices by companies like Coke and Pepsi that try to muzzle negative comments about their products. In many cases, they make any school or university that carries their bottled water sign an agreement saying that they will not publicly criticize their products.

November 30, 2009 at 5:01 pm
Leave a Reply