The event was moderated by CBC Radio One’s The Current’s Anna Maria Tremonti, with expert panellists Ottawa Deputy Bureau Chief Dean Beeby of the Canadian Press, former Information Commissioner John Reid and Paula Todd, an investigative journalist with CTV’s W5. The event was hosted at NOW Magazine’s office as part of an ongoing series of talks with artists, musicians, journos and thinkers. The night also celebrated the release of the CJFE’s second annual Review of Free Expression in Canada, featuring articles about Toronto’s G20, WikiLeaks and an article about how the Access to Information Act is failing journalists (penned by yours truly).
The discussion was packed with useful info about how journalists can navigate the complicated ATI process (the best advice? Just keep digging). There were plenty of complaints; ATI requests must be made via snail mail, paid for by those little paper squares the old folks call “cheques”; reporters can wait weeks and months (and some cases, years) for documents to be released; and, hovering above it all, the Harper government’s tight grip on information and censor-happy public servants. Then there’s the exemptions – 13 legal ones, mostly related to things like national security and personal privacy, and one, unspoken one: embarrassment. And yes, that’s illegal, but one that former Info Commissioner John Reid is far more prevalent than you’d think. Check out CJFE’s liveblog for the full story.