Blacklock’s Reporter today served legal notice it will challenge a gag ruling that disqualifies the online publisher from the Ottawa Press Gallery unless management divulges proprietary information.
“If this precedent stands independent journalism is dead on Parliament Hill,” said Blacklock’s board. “No newspaper, radio or TV station would tolerate these arbitrary requirements, yet the gallery would ban an online publisher.”
The gallery disqualified Blacklock’s application for Hill press credentials unless the company disclosed details of its corporate structure, the names of all partners and contributors and terms of contracts with its writers.
“According to the Gallery’s Constitution, Blacklock’s is not required to provide confidential corporate information,” wrote Yavar Hameed, the company’s lawyer, who noted the gallery demands appeared to be “disproportionately targeting Blacklock’s.”
“In the event the Gallery or its president insists on probing the confidential information of Blacklock’s, my client will be obliged to take legal steps to challenge the Gallery’s treatment of Blacklock’s and/or seek redress for economic loss occasioned as a result of misfeasance by those responsible within the Board of the Gallery,” Hameed wrote.
On Nov. 5 Blacklock’s submitted an application to accredit features editor Holly Doan as a company representative on Parliament Hill. Accreditation is open to “bona fide journalists” and media that cover parliamentary news, according to the press gallery constitution dating from 1885.
“Holly Doan has been a gallery member dating from 1993, and Blacklock’s coverage can be verified by anyone with an internet connection,” the board said in a statement. “Our credentials are not difficult to determine.”
Yet the gallery immediately disqualified Blacklock’s unless the company disclosed its payroll and business arrangements.
“The Executive wishes to obtain additional information about Blacklock’s Reporter,” Chris Rands, gallery president, wrote in a Nov. 8 letter suspending the application; “What is Blacklock’s Reporter? Who are the other people involved? Are each of them working full-time with Blacklock’s or are they also covering Parliament Hill for other media organizations?…The questions above need to be addressed before any (new) memberships can be issued.”
Blacklock’s refused to divulge confidential information, noting the questions flouted bylaws that limit enquiries to applicants’ “bona fide” credentials.
“Rands has made the accreditation of Ms. Doan as an employee of Blacklock’s subject to a series of questions that are ultra vires or outside the scope of the constitution,” wrote Hameed.
Blacklock’s directors today noted in a statement the gallery previously granted “bona fide” accreditation to the ex-Soviet news agency Tass; the Beijing-based agency Xinhua; the People’s Daily of China; and Vietnam News Agency, the official organ of the Communist party of Hanoi.
“These are ‘bona fide’ but Blacklock’s is disqualified unless we name names,” said the board. “This begs judicial review.”
The online publisher will consider further action if the gag ruling is not lifted by Nov. 25.