By Grant Buckler
Rebel Media said it’s been blacklisted by Alberta’s ruling party.
On Jan. 29, Calgary reporter Holly Nicholas and Alberta bureau chief Sheila Gunn Reid went to a government briefing about the oil royalty review for the news organization set up by former Sun News host Ezra Levant. They were allegedly ejected from the event.
According to a column by Lorne Gunter in the Edmonton Sun, on the same day an official from the premier’s office ordered Reid and Nicholas out of the common area of a downtown Calgary hotel where they were waiting to interview an oil industry spokesperson.
Then, on Feb. 3, the news outlet said Reid attempted to attend a joint press briefing by Premier Rachel Notley and Prime Minister Justin Trudeau at the provincial legislature and was told she was on a “no-go list.”
The Rebel then had a lawyer write to the provincial government asking for confirmation that such incidents would not occur again. Instead of that response, the outlet received a letter from Jason Fung, a lawyer with Alberta’s Ministry of Justice, which said: “Our client’s position remains that your client and those who identify as being connected to your client are not journalists and are not entitled to access media lock-ups or other such events.”
Premier Notley’s office did not immediately respond to a request for comment. However, the National Post quoted the premier’s spokesperson as saying the government does not consider Levant a reporter because, in his defence in a 2014 libel trial, he testified that he was a commentator and pundit, and “I don’t think in my entire life I’ve ever called myself a reporter.” The Post also quoted an e-mail from Levant saying he does consider himself a journalist.
The Rebel has posted an online petition and said it intends to sue the provincial government.
Grant Buckler is a retired freelance journalist and a volunteer with Canadian Journalists for Free Expression and lives in Kingston, Ont.