News and opinion outlet headed by right-wing commentator Ezra Levant denied on basis that it is ‘advocacy media’.

News and opinion outlet headed by right-wing commentator Ezra Levant denied on basis that it is ‘advocacy media’.

By Grant Buckler

Canadian journalism organizations are expressing concern over the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) secretariat refusal of media accreditation to representatives of The Rebel, a news and opinion outlet headed by right-wing commentator Ezra Levant.

The conference on climate change is to take place in Marrakech, Morocco, Nov. 7 to 18. The Rebel had applied to send its Alberta bureau chief, a producer and a camera operator. UNFCCC denied the first two applications earlier this month, saying that “advocacy media outlets do not qualify for accreditation.” It has not responded to the camera operator’s application.

The Rebel has published articles denying that climate change is a significant issue. The organization employs more than 20 journalists, including an accredited member of the Parliamentary Press Gallery.

The Canadian Association of Journalists (CAJ) and PEN Canada have both written to the UNFCCC asking the secretariat to reverse its decision. Canadian Journalists for Free Expression (CJFE) sent a letter expressing concern and asking the UNFCCC to clarify its decision.

On Oct. 5, Grace Westcott, executive director of PEN Canada, wrote to the UNFCCC organizers: “We believe that the real or perceived biases of a news agency lie beyond the scope of the secretariat and are irrelevant to the question of whether a legitimately constituted news outlet is properly admitted to the Conference.”

On Oct. 13, Nick Taylor-Vaisey, president of the CAJ, encouraged the secretariat to reverse its decision, saying the fact that the UNFCCC website does not define the term “advocacy journalism” raises concerns that it is “provided arbitrarily.”

CJFE stopped short of asking the UNFCCC to reverse its decision. In a letter, Tom Henheffer, CJFE’s executive director, asked the secretariat to give its definition of “advocacy media outlet” and state its basis for determining that The Rebel is such an outlet. He also asked where the UNFCCC has stated that advocacy media outlets are ineligible for accreditation.

“While CJFE recognizes the need for some process of accreditation to take place for major UNFCCC conferences given security imperatives and limited space, the criteria determining which organizations and journalists are accredited must be transparently determined and consistently applied,” Henheffer wrote.

The Financial Post reported Monday that Levant has asked Prime Minister Justin Trudeau to intervene on The Rebel’s behalf.

Grant Buckler is a retired freelance journalist and a volunteer with Canadian Journalists for Free Expression and lives in Kingston, Ont.