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MALCOLM: Make no mistake about it, press freedom is under attack in Canada

Trudeau is silencing critics, delegitimizing dissenting voices and attacking our freedom of the press in Canada.

The Trudeau government spent the better part of last week swearing up and down that they will not regulate news organizations.

And while they insist they’re not hiding a radical agenda — one that flies in the face of our fundamental freedoms enumerated in the Charter of Rights and Freedoms — their sheer cloudy vagueness should be a cause for concern to all Canadians.

It started on Sunday, when Trudeau’s Heritage Minister Steven Guilbeault sat down with CTV’s Evan Solomon to discuss a Trudeau-appointed panel that made recommendations on the topic of regulating digital media on the internet.

Guilbeault told Solomon his government was putting together legislation based on the recommendations — which happen to be staggeringly Orwellian and a drastic overreach of the government’s role when it comes to a free and independent press.

The Heritage Minister discussed imposing new taxes on streaming services like Netflix and Disney and began musing about creating a government registry for media sites.

“How will this work? How are you going to regulate websites?” asks Solomon.

“If you are a distributor of content in Canada, and obviously if you are a very small media organization the requirement probably will not be the same as if you are Facebook or Google… but we would ask that they have a licence, yes.”

There you have it. The government wants to create some sort of licencing system for media organizations.

The very next morning, Guilbeault held an emergency press conference to walk it back. Except, he didn’t really walk it back.

He emphasized that the Trudeau government would not create a licencing program for the “news media.” But he also denied saying anything wrong on CTV the night before and failed to explain what he meant when he said that media organizations should need a licence to operate.

“Our government has no intention to impose licencing requirements on news organizations, nor will we try to regulate news content,” said the minister.

Catch that? According to the minister, “news organizations” will not require a licence, but “media organizations” will.

Guilbeault once again joined CTV’s Solomon to try to clarify the situation. “What’s your definition of media?” asked Solomon.

“The important answer is not what my definition is,” responded Guilbeault.

“Who decides what a news organization is?” asked Solomon. “What falls under the category of news?”

Guilbeault failed to answer simple questions and was unable to explain the difference between “news” and “media” organizations.

“The government is not in the business of deciding that,” Guilbeault finally mustered.

But, as my colleague Anthony Furey pointed out, the Trudeau government has already interjected itself in deciding who is and who isn’t a news organization.

In the most recent federal budget, as part of their $595 million media bailout, the feds state that only “qualified Canadian journalism organizations” will be eligible for the deal.

The fact of the matter is that Guilbeault refused to answer Solomon’s questions, and refused to define “news organization” because the Trudeau government is actively regulating the media.

First, they led the charge on the dystopian UN Compact on Migration, which had a section specifically going after a free press, and they set up a corresponding media slush fund to reward their friends and punish independent journalists.

Then, they spent $131,000 on lawyers to fight against two independent conservative media organizations — including True North, the news and research organization I run — to stop them from being considered legitimate news organizations during the recent federal election.

Most recently, they hauled author Ezra Levant before a closed-door investigation over whether he broke election laws for writing a book critical of Trudeau and releasing it during the campaign.

Trudeau may have sent out a bumbling fool to gloss over his agenda, but make no mistake about what is going on here. Trudeau is silencing critics, delegitimizing dissenting voices and attacking our freedom of the press in Canada.

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