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DFO was singled out 'for its zeal in muzzling scientists and keeping critical research findings from Canadians,' said a news release from Canadian Journalists for Free Expression. (Fisheries and Oceans Canada)
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The Department of Fisheries and Oceans has been given an F in an annual Canadian press freedom report card.
Although the federal government as a whole received a C-, Fisheries and Oceans Canada was singled out "for its zeal in muzzling scientists and keeping critical research findings from Canadians," said a news release from Canadian Journalists for Free Expression Thursday.
The organization, which advocates for the rights of journalists and media workers to express themselves, released the annual report card in conjunction with World Press Freedom Day, which takes place Friday.
The report accompanying the report card said DFO received the failing grade because:
A more detailed article in the report said that as of January, DFO scientists have been told they must now get departmental approval to submit research to science journals and the department has the power to pull scientific articles that have already been accepted for publication. It also has proposed confidentiality provisions "that, for the first time" would apply to non-government and non-Canadian research collaborators.
"The Harper administration isn't the first government to try to massage the message," wrote Ottawa journalist Bob Carty, author of that section of the report.
"But in my experience, it's never been this bad. Some journalists have given up even trying to get a comment from a federal scientist in Canada — it's easier to call someone in the U.S. or the U.K."
In response to the report, Barbara Mottram, press secretary to Fisheries Minister Keith Ashfield, said in a statement that "communicating its science is a priority for Fisheries and Oceans Canada, and the department’s record is solid."
Mottram added that the department responds to about 380 media calls per year, publishes weekly science feature stories on its website, and releases science advisory reports "documenting our research." The reports provide updates on individual fish and shellfish stocks, ecosystems and habitats.
In the case of Miller, Mottram said she was not allowed to speak about research published in 2011 in order to "protect the integrity" of hearings later that year at a public inquiry into the 2009 collapse of the Fraser River sockeye salmon stocks. However, she said the written report, published in the journal Science, was widely available.
Other organizations graded in the Canadian Journalists for Free Expression report included:
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