Who’s a journalist? P.E.I. human rights case may have some answers

A human rights complaint in Prince Edward Island may define who is considered a journalist — or at least who is allowed in the P.E.I. legislative press gallery.

By Eric Mark Do, The Canadian Journalism Project

In October 2009, Stephen Pate, a local blogger and disability advocate was kicked out of the press gallery by a vote of 11-2. He filed a complaint against the legislative press gallery a year later alleging that it was an act of discrimination based on his disability. Pate has post-polio syndrome and he says he’s confined to a wheelchair for much of the time. The discrimination allegations have not been proven in court or before a human rights panel.

The circumstances leading up to Pate’s removal from the gallery bring into question what a member of the press is allowed to do.

Stephen Pate Farmers Market 373x430 Who’s a journalist? P.E.I. human rights case may have some answers photo

Stephen Pate offering Disability Fast Facts at the Charlottetown Farmer’s Market April 2007

Pate is the leader of Disability Alert, a group that advocates for rights of the disabled. That group’s blog is now a part of Pate’s NJN Network, a blogging site. He is a director for both organizations.

It seems that the press gallery sees him as an advocate and not a journalist. But Pate argues that advocating for disabled rights is not a conflict for a member of the press gallery. Pate cites former broadcaster and current lieutenant governor of Ontario David Onley, who also has post-polio syndrome, as an example of a journalist who advocated for disabled rights.

When Pate was a member of the press gallery in September 2009, he published a fake press release on his site and sent it to media outlets around P.E.I. stating the Government of P.E.I. formed a six-figure public private partnership to help disabled individuals have better access at a local library. Pate contends it was a satirical piece; the current online version has disclaimers at the beginning and end, but one member of the gallery said there were no disclaimers when it was first published. Less than a month later Pate’s press pass was taken away.

Wayne Thibodeau, press gallery president and a reporter for the Guardian, says he doesn’t agree with Pate that he is a journalist and expressed concern that his actions jeopardized the independence and freedom of the press in P.E.I.  To read more, please go to J-Source.ca

For additional comment see Time For Journalism To Give Up Myth Of Neutral Perspective by Sherwin Arnott.

and  CBC Blocks Human Rights Hearing

By Stephen Pate, NJN Network

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