Canadian science writers given freedom of speech award - in Canada
- May 4, 2012 2:40 PM |
- By Quirks
By Bob McDonald, Quirks & Quarks
This past week, the Canadian Science Writers Association, and its Quebec equivalent, received the Press Freedom Award
from the Canadian Committee for World Press Freedom and Canadian
Commission for UNESCO for their efforts to stop the muzzling of Canadian
federal scientists. The award was given on May 3, World Press Freedom
The award is given to a Canadian person or group who has defended or advanced the cause of freedom of expression. The science writers collectively wrote an open letter to the prime minister last February, asking to free federal scientists from restrictions imposed on them when speaking to the press about their own work, especially those in environmental science.
This type of award is usually given to reporters working in countries where oppressive governments or dictatorships attempt to control the press and threaten the lives of journalists pursuing the truth. It's not the type of issue we normally associate with Canada.
Every year, another organization, Canadian Journalists for Free Expression, honours journalists, usually from a war-torn or oppressed country, who have risked their lives just doing their job - seeking the truth and informing the public. The huge gala evening, which I have had the privilege to witness, is attended by hundreds of journalists in all media from across the country who support our international colleagues.
The event is a highly emotional one, as we listen to the tragic and heroic stories of journalists who have had their families threatened, been shot at or even killed by governments that do not want the media's message to be heard.
Hearing about the difficulties journalists in other countries face underlines how privileged we are in Canada to uphold the principles of journalistic integrity.
But this award to the Canadian Science Writers Association is a sign that the tip of that oppressive iceberg is showing here.
Of course, no science writers are being threatened, but there have been numerous incidents where journalists, including us at Quirks & Quarks, have requested interviews with federal scientists about their own work and have either been refused or delayed access until after our deadlines by government media relations.
The scientific perspective on the world is an important one because science is the pursuit of truth. Most of the universe is still unknown to us, whether it be the dynamics of our atmosphere and how it interacts with the oceans, land and life, or the dark matter hidden between the stars.
We know that human activity has had a negative impact on our planet and we need to make some hard decisions about ways to reduce that impact without destroying the economy or our way of life. Those decisions need the scientific point of view. Science is the voice of reason that is often overshadowed by political, social or economic priorities.
This is not to say that science has all the answers, nor should decisions be made for purely scientific reasons. But that perspective needs to be part of the mix, and for that reason, the scientists need to be heard.
So, congratulations to the Canadian Science Writers Association for the award - but it's really a bit of a sad day for Canada.
All News blogs
Quirks and Quarks
- Chris Hadfield's fall from space
- The final segment of Canadian Astronaut Chris Hadfield's mission, the return to Earth on Monday evening, will be the most difficult of all. As he plunges into the atmosphere, he will transform from a free floating body to a heavy prisoner of gravity. Continue reading this post
- Glimmer of hope even as planet hits CO2 climate milestone
- A new record level of carbon dioxide in the Earth's atmosphere has been recorded at the Mauna Loa observatory on the island of Hawaii, the world's premier atmospheric monitoring station. Continue reading this post
- Celebrating 60 years of DNA
- A ceremony at Cambridge University in England this week unveiled a memorial to Dr. Francis Crick, co-discoverer of the structure of the DNA molecule. His co-author, Dr. James Watson, now 85, attended the ceremony for a discovery many consider to be as important as Darwin's theory of evolution and Einstein's theory of relativity. Continue reading this post