Report to the 74th General Assembly
October 19 to 22, 2018
Salta, Argentina

Nothing much has changed in terms of the way in which judicial decisions continue to affect freedom of the press in the resolution of specific cases, as well as the increasing concern is the dramatic deterioration of the printed press.

Different associations of journalists have reacted to condemn intimidation tactics by ideological groups who wish to muzzle the press in Quebec. Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and Quebec Premier Philippe Couillard denounced the intimidation of "Vice Quebec" Journalists after members of the antiimmigration group "Atalante" entered unannounced and wearing masks in the offices of "Vice". The attack came as a reaction to an article published by Simon Coutu, reporting the rise of far-right groups in Montreal. Since then many serious attempts against the protection of sources have occurred.

The RCMP presented VICE News journalist Ben Makuch wih a production order to seize and turn over all communications between himself and an alleged member of ISIS who was charged in absentia of terrorism-related activity. What ensued were several legal submissions and allegations that made it to the Ontario Court of Appeals.

The Center for Free Expression as well as the organization of Canadian journalists for free expression voiced their concern as the Provincial Government of Ontario tried to influence the free internal decision-making processes of academic institutions in matters of Freedom of Expression through intimidation and financial constraint. The Provincial Government put forward a Plan for 2 Universities and Colleges that can affect those decision-making processes.

Failure to adopt the Ontario Government plan would seriously jeopardize access of Universities and Colleges to funds vital to their infrastructure.

The printed press is in peril. Postmedia announced its decision to shut down six of its community newspapers and the simultaneous scaling back on many of its municipal operations: The Camrose Canadian and The Strathmore Standard in the Province of Alberta, and in Ontario, the Kapuskasing Northern Times, the Ingersoll Times, the Norwich Gazette and the Petrolia Topic.

Further proof of rapid deterioration from what used to be a massive operation by Postmedia is the scaling back of the High River Times in Alberta and the disappearance of The Graphic in Portage La prairie, Man, the Northern News in Kirkland Lake and the Pembroke Daily Observer in Ontario. Postmedia and Torstar Corporation are the largest media holding groups in the country.

In November of 2017 the two giants traded 41 publications and closed 36 newspapers in areas where they were in open competition for readership. As a result of this move, 291 jobs were eliminated and the two newspaper chains are being investigated by Canada's Competition Bureau. To date there has been no charge laid in confirmation of possible allegations that the two media giants conspired in the transaction that saw the massive job-cuts.

Also in June, Rogers Media announced 75 layoffs after cutting one third of its digital content and publishing team. Journalists also lost their jobs at MacLean's, 3 Chatelaine and other online-only titles. The concern is that the decline in printed media has not been met with a significant raise in digital media growth.

The prevailing anxiety during this very charged 2018 has been how to fund Journalism. The feeling is that here has been a creative disruption that should have meant opportunities for independent journalism and on-demand information outlets, but somehow these awaited consequences have not been as immediate and rewarding as expected.

The traditional revenue models of the printed press have been upended, but neither the new models of reporting nor the digital medium generates a viable financial alternative.