Leaked document says Canadian federal climate scientists being blocked from media contact

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A dramatic reduction in Canadian media coverage of climate change science issues is the result of Harper government rules to control interviews by Environment Canada scientists with journalists, according to an internal Environment Canada federal document. “The document suggests the new communications policy has practically eliminated senior federal scientists from media coverage of climate-change science issues, leaving them frustrated that the government was trying to ‘muzzle’ them,” the Montreal Gazette reported March 15. Calling the situation a scandal, a Climate Action Network Canada spokesman says of the Harper government, “they’re putting climate deniers in key oversight positions over research, and they’re reducing funding in key areas. … It’s almost as though they’re making a conscious attempt to bury the truth.”

From the Montreal Gazette:

Climate-change scientists feel ‘muzzled’ by Ottawa: Documents
By Mike De Souza, Canwest News Service
March 15, 2010

OTTAWA — A dramatic reduction in Canadian media coverage of climate change science issues is the result of the Harper government introducing new rules in 2007 to control interviews by Environment Canada scientists with journalists, says a newly released federal document.

“Scientists have noticed a major reduction in the number of requests, particularly from high profile media, who often have same-day deadlines,” said the Environment Canada document.

“Media coverage of climate change science, our most high-profile issue, has been reduced by over 80 per cent.”

The analysis reviewed the impact of a new federal communications policy at Environment Canada, which required senior federal scientists to seek permission from the government prior to giving interviews.

In many cases, the policy also required them to get approval from supervisors of written responses to the questions submitted by journalists before any interview, said the document, obtained in an investigation into the government’s views and policies on global-warming science that was conducted by Climate Action Network Canada, a coalition of environmental groups.

The document suggests the new communications policy has practically eliminated senior federal scientists from media coverage of climate-change science issues, leaving them frustrated that the government was trying to “muzzle” them.

“Many (federal climate change) scientists are recognized experts in their field, have received media training, and have successfully carried out media interviews for many years,” said the document, leaked by an Environment Canada employee who asked not to be named.

“Our scientists are very frustrated with the new process. They feel the intent of the policy is to prevent them from speaking to media.”

The Environment Canada analysis noted that four prominent scientists, who regularly spoke for the government on climate change science issues, appeared in only 12 newspaper clippings in the first nine months of 2008, compared with 99 clippings over the same period in 2007. …

© Copyright (c) Canwest News Service

Read the rest of the story here.

Question for further investigation: How do the media communication rules under the Harper government in Canada compare with the current media policies at U.S. federal agencies under the Obama Administration? Are U.S. climate science experts free to take questions from journalists without running a gauntlet of political appointees and restrictive press policies?

Earlier CSW posts:
July 23, 2008: Canadian government mimics US “quiet release” method for major climate and health report

February 13, 2008: New Harper government policy muzzles communication by Environment Canada government scientists

November 17, 2006: “The Denial Machine” airs on CBC-TV

June 7, 2006: Canada’s leading scientists: Evidence calls for going “far beyond” the Kyoto Protocol

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One Response to Leaked document says Canadian federal climate scientists being blocked from media contact

  1. Pingback: Harper’s attack on science: No science, no evidence, no truth, no democracy | Academic Matters

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