Canadian journalists Glen McGregor and Stephen Maher will be honoured on Friday as part of the Canadian Committee for World Press Freedom’s celebration of World Press Freedom Day.
Mr. McGregor of The Ottawa Citizen and Mr. Maher of Postmedia News are this year’s recipients of the World Press Freedom Award, which the CCWPF has given annually for the past 15 years. Mr. McGregor and Mr. Maher won the award for their work leading Postmedia’s coverage of the robo-calls scandal that emerged from the 2011 federal election campaign.
“It was an example of how, even in our own country, we have to be watchful of freedom of expression and media freedom. [Mr. McGregor and Mr. Maher] persisted despite obstacles,” said Susan Korah of the Canadian Association of Journalists. Ms. Korah is part of the CCWPF committee of former and current journalists that selects the winner of the award from a field of nominees.
Mr. McGregor and Mr. Maher came under heavy fire from the government and conservative pundits for revealing the robo-calls scandal. However, Mr. McGregor said he knows things could have been much worse.
“We weren’t dragged into a cell and beaten with canes or anything else, which is a risk for journalists around the world,” he said from Guelph, Ont., where former Conservative staffer Michael Sona will have his first court date in connection with the robocalls issue on Friday.
“I don’t want to in any way equate this with the very real threats to the liberties and safety of journalists in other parts of the world, but there was clearly a distinct campaign to discredit Steve and I, and by extension, the stories we were writing.”
Margaret Munro of Postmedia News will get an honourable mention for her story on the federal government’s “muzzling” of Environment Canada scientists at a 2012 polar conference. The CCWPF’s editorial cartoon contest this year called for artists to use the theme “hard times and free speech.” Uruguayan cartoonist Leslie Ricciardi took first place, while Dale Cummings of the Winnipeg Free Press placed second and Peter Chmela of Slovakia was third.
May 3 was designated World Press Freedom Day by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization in 1993. Ms. Korah said it is a chance not only for journalists, but all people, to reflect on the state of the right to free expression in Canada and around the world.
“It’s not just to celebrate press freedom, but to highlight abuses of the right to freedom of expression,” she said. “There are many countries where [freedom of the press] is not a given. We always have to be vigilant even in our country, where we supposedly have freedom of expression.”
The awards will be presented on Friday in Ottawa at the CCWPF’s annual luncheon.