Government statement singles out ‘controversial reporter’

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In what has been called an “unusual, if not unprecedented” move, the Prime Minister’s Office and parliamentary secretary to the Prime Minister Dean Del Mastro have issued a statement in response to reporting by Stephen Maher in which Maher is referred to as "controversial."

In June, Maher and Postmedia colleague Glen McGregor began reporting on an Elections Canada investigation into alleged financing violations in Del Mastro’s 2008 campaign spending. On Thursday, Maher reported for the Ottawa Citizen that the RCMP had been brought in to help Elections Canada with two separate investigations on the matter.

Del Mastro’s office released a statement in response to Maher’s story to the Conservative MP’s local newspaper, the Peterborough Examiner (emphasis added):

“We’re glad to hear that Elections Canada is attempting to determine whether documents produced by Mr. Del Mastro’s accuser are doctored or false … It is worth keeping in mind that Postmedia recently retracted a story written by controversial reporter Stephen Maher because it made false claims against a Conservative riding association.”

But that’s not exactly true.

No retraction was made on Maher’s Nov. 22 story about donations made to a Conservative riding association in Montreal that the listed donors said they did not make. Rather, after the story was published, Postmedia says the Conservative riding association of Laurier-Sainte-Marie released copies of cheques they had previous declined to provide. A “For the Record” notice was added at the top of Maher’s article, and a follow-up story was published the next day.

Regardless, the statement about Maher caused Christopher Waddell, director of Carleton University's School of Journalism, to be critical of the government’s approach to communications.

“For a government that’s supposedly good at communications, they seem to have a lot of trouble communicating a lot of things,” Waddell told the Citizen.

As for Maher: “I don’t consider myself to be controversial,” the reporter told the Citizen.

For more on this, check out the respective reports in The Ottawa Citizen and the Peterborough Examiner.

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