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The Alberta Government Wouldn't Let A Conservative News Outlet Cover Its Events Because They "Are Not Journalists"

The government said The Rebel's correspondents "are not journalists."

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Updated at bottom.

The Alberta government says it will continue excluding a right-wing news site from press events because its staff "are not journalists."

In late January, two correspondents for The Rebel were kicked out of a technical briefing for journalists and later barred from interviewing people in a common area, according to a post on the conservative outlet's website. Several days later, Alberta bureau chief Sheila Gunn Reid was barred from attending a joint press conference by Alberta Premier Rachel Notley and Prime Minister Justin Trudeau because she lacked "accreditation."
The Rebel / Via youtu.be

In late January, two correspondents for The Rebel were kicked out of a technical briefing for journalists and later barred from interviewing people in a common area, according to a post on the conservative outlet's website.

Several days later, Alberta bureau chief Sheila Gunn Reid was barred from attending a joint press conference by Alberta Premier Rachel Notley and Prime Minister Justin Trudeau because she lacked "accreditation."

The Rebel had earlier asked the president of the legislature's press gallery about receiving accreditation, but they had been assured it was not essential.

Darcy Henton said he advised the online news outlet that "journalists from credible news organizations do not require press gallery membership to cover events at the legislature."When Gunn Reid tried to tell this to the head of security, she was escorted off the premises. She also says she was told she was on a "no go" list.
The Rebel

Darcy Henton said he advised the online news outlet that "journalists from credible news organizations do not require press gallery membership to cover events at the legislature."

When Gunn Reid tried to tell this to the head of security, she was escorted off the premises. She also says she was told she was on a "no go" list.

After The Rebel complained, a lawyer in the justice department replied with a terse statement that said the news site and its staff "are not journalists and are not entitled to access media lock-ups or other such events."

The Rebel, which was co-founded last year by former Sun News Network host Ezra Levant, takes an activist approach to its coverage and has been sharply critical of the Alberta NDP government. The premier's press secretary Cheryl Oates defended The Rebel's exclusion on the grounds that "the person who runs the website, Ezra Levant, has testified under oath that he’s not a journalist. So we don’t consider him a journalist."Asked whether this also ruled out people who work under Levant, Oates said it would be assessed "on a case-by-case basis."“The Rebel can apply for membership into the press gallery and in that case we would absolutely sit down with the press gallery executive and discuss it,” Oates said.
Ezra Levant / Facebook

The Rebel, which was co-founded last year by former Sun News Network host Ezra Levant, takes an activist approach to its coverage and has been sharply critical of the Alberta NDP government.

The premier's press secretary Cheryl Oates defended The Rebel's exclusion on the grounds that "the person who runs the website, Ezra Levant, has testified under oath that he’s not a journalist. So we don’t consider him a journalist."

Asked whether this also ruled out people who work under Levant, Oates said it would be assessed "on a case-by-case basis."

“The Rebel can apply for membership into the press gallery and in that case we would absolutely sit down with the press gallery executive and discuss it,” Oates said.

Levant says his outlet has been covering the premier until now with no problem. "Only after Sheila Gunn Reid’s book, about Rachel Notley became a best-seller, did Notley’s office blacklist our reporters."

He also insists he's never claimed not to be a journalist.

"I occasionally say I'm not a reporter — or at least I used to say that, when I regarded myself as an opinion journalist. But an opinion journalist is a type of journalist," he said in an email to BuzzFeed Canada. "It is not appropriate or legal for the Government of Alberta to decide who is or isn't a journalist."

The Rebel has promised to sue the government for full access to press events.

UPDATE

The Alberta government is reviewing its policies and has lifted its ban on Rebel journalists covering government press events.

BuzzFeed Canada received this statement from the premier's office on Wednesday:

We’ve heard a lot of feedback from Albertans and media over the course of the last two days and it’s clear we made a mistake. The government has appointed former Western Canadian Bureau Chief for Canadian Press, Heather Boyd to consult and give us recommendations on what the government’s media policies should be. In the meantime, no one will be excluded from government media events.

Ishmael N. Daro is a reporter for BuzzFeed News and is based in Toronto. PGP fingerprint: 5A1D 9099 3497 DA4B

Contact Ishmael N. Daro at ishmael.daro@buzzfeed.com.

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