NDP MP says prime minister must act on growing harassment of journalists

An NDP MP is speaking out about the growing trend of harassment of those in the media where journalists who are women, Indigenous, Black and others are often the targets.

“One of the pillars of a functioning democracy is to ensure freedom of the press and that means allowing journalists to do what they need to do as part of a functioning democracy,” Leah Gazan, who represents Winnipeg Centre, told APTN News.

“The recent harassment of women, particularly female journalists of Black, Indigenous and people of colour, has been abhorrent.”

For the past couple of weeks, Global News journalist Rachel Gilmore has been sharing her story on Twitter.

In a recent post, she tweeted out her experience.

“Last night, someone who clearly owns guns directly threatened and harassed my entire family. I’m speaking to police about this, but it’s already forcing my loved ones to take precautions,” she wrote. “You can disagree with my reporting. You can critique it. But don’t threaten my family.”

In a recent letter to the police chiefs in Ottawa and Toronto, the Canadian Association of Journalists makes a number of observations.

“For the most part, these reports have been filed by racialized journalists or writers who are experiencing an increasing number of targeted, vile threats of violence. The volume and nature of the rhetoric has caused many of these journalists to fear for their safety,” the letter posted online said. “Many of the threatening emails use similar language, the same language commonly used by domestic extremist groups.

“We ask that you review and improve your respective processes for making complaints of hate speech and harassment. It should go without saying that victims should not be made to wait hours on the phone to file complaints.”

Gazan says she agrees the attacks against journalists are largely coming from those affiliated with the extreme far right.

“We have a growing alt-right movement,” she said. “We have leaders, I would say, Trump, that have made people feel emboldened to come out and with the most violent – as we’re seeing with journalists – with the most violent, aggressive attacks.”

Journalists complained of being harassed this past winter by members of a convoy that occupied downtown Ottawa streets for more than a month.

More recently, there have been complaints against another convoy-affiliated group – the United People of Canada – who are currently fighting eviction from a former Ottawa church.

Gazan said it’s not only the police that needs to step up to address the problem but the federal government itself.

“The prime minister needs to meet with the Canadian Association of Journalists,” she said. “He needs to heed the calls for safety and not tweet, but he needs to act immediately.”