Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Cartoonists Rights Network's letter to Pacific Newspaper Group

Cartoonists Rights Network International Issues Public Letter of Protest to Kevin Bent, President and Publisher of Pacific Newspaper Group, Executive Vice President Western Canada

In June of this year, the Canadian newspaper the Vancouver Province took down an animated editorial cartoon that lampoons the Enbridge Corporation. As we reported in a previous article, the animated cartoon was reportedly removed from the paper’s website "because that energy company had issued an ultimatum to Postmedia Network Inc., the parent company of the Province and nineteen other newspapers and magazines. On June 22nd apparently both the Province and Postmedia blinked when Enbridge Inc. threatened to "pull 1 million CAD in ads."  That animated cartoon has not been reposted. CRNI has been monitoring the situation at the Vancouver Province since this disturbing incident of corporate interference into a newspaper’s editorial decision making. Earlier this week CRNI sent Kevin Bent, the President and Publisher of the Pacific Newspaper Group, Executive Vice President  Western Canada, the following letter of protest.

October 8, 2012

Kevin Bent
President and Publisher, Executive Vice President Western Canada
Pacific Newspaper Group
200 Granville Street
Vancouver, BC
Canada V6C 1S4
Dear Mr. Bent,
As the Executive Director of a human rights organization dedicated to protecting the free speech rights of cartoonists, I don’t often write to a media professional in one of the freest countries in the world about the basics of independent journalism.  Most of my work and that of my team concern free speech violations in countries without Canada’s long and proud tradition of media independence.  Yet, a little over three months ago, Pacific Newspaper Group apparently violated a cardinal rule of journalism – Pacific Newspaper bowed to inappropriate commercial pressure and tore down the wall separating advertising revenue and editorial policy.

I'm talking of course about the June 22, 2012, animated editorial cartoon for the Vancouver Province by staff cartoonist Dan Murphy.  The animation was taken down from that paper’s website after the Enbridge Corporation, a major advertiser in the Province and other Postmedia newspapers, made a complaint about the content of that editorial.  Three plus months have passed since that cartoon was taken down without warning or explanation.  In spite of a public outcry from media professionals, free speech activists, and most importantly the public that you serve, that cartoon has not been returned to the Province’s website.

Our organization is encouraged by the fact that more recent animations by Mr. Murphy equally critical of the Enbridge Corporation have been posted, and have remained posted, on the website.  As an experienced deepwater sailor, I was especially pleased to see Mr. Murphy’s animation poking fun at Enbridge's seemingly deceptive view of the navigational approaches to the pipeline terminal in the harbor.

Whether the pipeline is a good idea or not, is up to an informed public to decide.  When Mr. Murphy creates and posts an informative and persuasive cartoon or animation about this important topic, he is helping your readers make an informed decision.  In other words, he is doing his job.

As the President and Publisher of the Pacific Newspaper Group, you have a duty to defend free speech.  That implicitly means you have a responsibility to encourage, not silence, diverse views from your readers, from your columnists, and, from your very serious, and seriously funny, cartoonist.


Dr. Robert Russell
Executive Director
Cartoonists Rights Network International