Showing posts with label media. Show all posts
Showing posts with label media. Show all posts

Thursday 7 November 2019

When It Comes to China, Do Canadians Believe the Media?

The Media blitz

Since I first published a post ( 10 Dec 2018) on Canada's arrest of the Huawei CFO, Meng Wanzhou, I have been baffled, awestruck and frustrated by the refusal of Canadian media to question the legitimacy of her arrest and extradition.  Since I began the process of my own modest online inquiries, I have noticed that the National Post, the newspaper founded by Conrad Black before he went to prison (he has since been pardoned by President Trump), has published some of the most strident anti-China editorials.  Although, Black sold the paper to one-time Liberal Izzy Asper, in recent years "the Post has retained a conservative editorial stance."

What does "freedom of the press" mean?

Obviously every newspaper in the "free" world is owned by somebody. Does it matter who owns a newspaper or a media company?  I don't know.  I've never worked for a newspaper.  I'm not particularly courageous or selfless, so I imagine that if I worked for a large media company I would be reluctant to risk my job, my salary, my social position and connections by publishing anything that I knew ran seriously counter to the interests and ideology of my top-of-the-pyramid employer.  I find it discouraging that Robert Maxwell "who embezzled hundreds of millions of pounds from his companies' pension funds" also controlled hundreds of newspapers. (His daughter, Ghislaine Maxwell,  is in the news with claims that she was sexual predator Jeffrey Epstein's madame, supplying him with juvenile prostitutes.) It is hardly encouraging that Robert Maxwell's nemesis, media mogul Rupert Murdoch, "faced allegations that his companies, including the News of the World, owned by News Corporation, had been regularly hacking the phones of celebrities, royalty, and public citizens. Murdoch faced police and government investigations into bribery and corruption by the British government and FBI investigations in the U.S."

Does it matter that the Globe and Mail is wholly owned by The Woodbridge Company which is the private holding company of the Thomson family?

Is Reuters covering the story, or is Reuters the story?

As your typical diffident Canadian, I have long been aware but not terribly disturbed by the fact that our news comes to us through channels that usually have owners.  As a Canadian, I think that we have CBC News and are therefore immune from tampering.  However, this seemingly innocuous article disturbed me: "New documents link Huawei to suspected front companies in Iran, Syria."

Why is it disturbing? If you followed the link, you will realize that it is presented under the banner CBC News.  However, this is not by any stretch of imagination CBC News.  As the small print and the content of the article make clear this is a publication of Thomson Reuters, the news agency owned by The Woodbridge Company of which the Thomson family are the principal shareholders.  Reuters is categorical that "Our correspondents do not use unconfirmed reports as the basis of a story, nor do they offer subjective opinion."  Nonetheless, readers need to be alert to the fact that what appears to be the research and writing of journalists from our national public broadcaster is, in fact, the work of un-named authors working for a private company principally owned by a single family.

Reading the article you will quickly discover that Reuters isn't just reporting the story, they are the story.
 . . . corporate filings and other documents found by Reuters in Iran and Syria show that Huawei, the world's largest supplier of telecommunications network equipment, is more closely linked to both firms than previously known.
Reuters have actively been building a case which might ultimately be used against Meng.  As they report, somewhat proudly:
Articles published by Reuters in 2012 and in 2013 here about Huawei, Skycom and Meng figure prominently in the U.S. case against her. 

Does Thomson Reuters have skin in the Meng-Huawei game?

Under "normal" circumstances, we would praise journalists for the hard slogging, investigative journalism required to unearth evidence.  However, in this case, we don't know who the authors are.  We are encouraged to believe that this "news" comes from the CBC, but obviously no CBC journalists were involved.

Does Thomson Reuters have any skin in this game?  Is it reasonable to ask this question?  I ask the question quite naively, but the result is surprising.  Thomson Reuters has gone through significant restructuring this year.  (I own 16 shares of Thomson Reuters stock by the way.) In its Annual Report for 2018, Thomson Reuters announced "In October, we sold 55% of our Financial & Risk (F&R) business to private equity funds managed by Blackstone for approximately $17 billion and retained a 45% interest in the new company, which is now known as Refinitiv."

Refinitiv, as its website displays, is collaborating on China's "Belt and Road Initiative" (aka "The New Silk Road") which the company describes as "The Infrastructure Project of the Century."  Thomson Reuters is now invested in China.  Will we begin to see a softening of positions and warming toward China in the Globe and Mail and Reuters' reports?  On November 4, Reuters still appeared to be maintaining a negative slant on China, but on November 5, along with everyone else, they reported on the front page of the Globe and Mail print edition that China had lifted its ban on Canadian beef and pork.

[This link (above) is to the "Global News" website.  Since I'm on the theme, I checked to see "who owns Global News?"  It's owned by Corus, which is controlled by the Shaw family.  Wherever you get your news in Canada, there is likely to be a family at the top of the pyramid.]

Same numbers different story

Reuters published this article 4 Nov 2019:  "Less than a third of Canadians view China favorably -poll."  Considering the media coverage, I think the real and surprising news is that 29% of Canadians continue to view China favourably. Reading this "Less than a third" headline, I was reminded of living in Quebec during the referendum years.  I can vividly recall standing at the counter of my local depanneur (corner store).  Glancing down to my right, I saw the bold, front-page headline of the Montreal Gazette: "One Third of Anglos Determined to Leave an Independent Quebec."  Looking to my left, the front-page headline of the French-language La Presse read "Two Thirds of Anglos Happy to Remain in an Independent Quebec"  [my translation from memory]. Same numbers different stories.

Summarizing a UBC survey, Reuters reported:
“The chill is real,” concluded the survey. China is now viewed favorably by 29% of Canadians, down from 36% two years ago but up from 22% in February, it concluded.


"Canadian Public Attitudes on China and Canada-China Relations"

"The chill is real" is a direct quotation from the UBC report, but the sentence appears on page 2, and is not a conclusion to the report as a whole.  "The chill" refers only to the drop of 7% from the previous survey two years ago.  Oddly, survey numbers indicate that attitudes toward China have warmed by 7% since February.  In the face of a Canadian media blitz condemning China for the arrest of two Canadians, and numerous reports on the threat China poses to Canada, it is astounding that one third of Canadians continue to view China positively.  (Keep in mind, that one third is almost as many Canadians as voted for the re-elected Liberal Party in the recent election.)

Survey says . . . 

The results are even more surprising, given the tenor of the survey as a whole which includes questions about human rights in China, references to Canadians Michael Kovrig and Michael Spavor, and a substantial listing of all the reasons a Canadian might perceive China negatively.  A frankly amazing statistic (again given media coverage) is presented in the conclusion of the report:

A plurality (39%) of respondents felt arresting Meng was a mistake, and a plurality (35%) feel she should be released before judicial proceedings complete.

Consider:  if "arresting Meng was a mistake" were a political party, it would have formed a majority government in the October 2019 election.  Despite our politicians and our journalists, Canadians are impressive.  Being "wary of China while supporting continuing contact" and releasing Meng--all make perfect sense.

Is Canada’s Print Media Fair on China

Influential, misinformed Canadian media hurts China-Canada relations: envoy

Monday 8 July 2019

Canadian Politicians Were Caught Like Deer in the Headlights, but Why Are Canadian Journalists Censuring any Discussion of the Merits of Meng's Case?

"The smart way to keep people passive and obedient is to strictly limit the spectrum of acceptable opinion, but allow very lively debate within that spectrum."                                                                                 

                                                     Noam Chomsky         

HSBC, "the victim," doesn't want to prosecute

After the G20 summit, President Trump let it be known that he is backtracking on the Huawei ban. Bloomberg and the Financial Times are reporting that HSBC is telling Beijing "It Is Not to Blame for Huawei CFO Arrest."  Where does that leave us?  Let's see:  HSBC is, according to the Grand Jury indictment, supposed to be the victim of Meng Wanzhou's alleged bank fraud.  The only evidence against Meng, according to the indictment, is a meeting she had with an HSBC executive and an accompanying Power Point presentation.  If the "plaintiff" and the "victim" are backing away from the case, the original warrant suspect and the evidence thin to non-existent, what's left?

It's all about Richard Donoghue, a CA Tech employee

Why is Canada still holding Meng Wanzhou, the Huawei CFO, under arrest? Why is Canada accepting that Canadians are being held in a Chinese prison or facing execution?  Why is Canada accepting the blockade of Canadian shipments of canola, pork and beef?  Why is Canada accepting this extreme deterioration of our trade and relations with China?  The answer is:  "Richard Donoghue asked us to." Yes, Canada and Canadians are facing these dire consequences because Richard Donoghue, Chief Litigator for CA Technologies (a Huawei competitor, now owned by Broadcom) who became a US Attorney in 2018, is the individual who requested Meng's arrest and is requesting her extradition.

Do Canadian journalists do any research?

"Richard Donoghue": what a dumb answer, except that it's true.  Despite the apparent conflict of interest, Canada and Canadians are facing these consequences because Richard Donoghue asked us to. I understand that our Canadian politicians panicked when faced with the request to arrest Meng and were paralyzed with fear and indecision.   "Deer in the headlights" is a very apt analogy.  Later they would have to come up with justifications for their paralysis and spread the nonsense claims that extradition is a "judicial, non-political" affair and we are "following the rule of law"--claims that are easily refuted by simply having a look at the relevant 14 pages of the  Canadian Extradition Act (pages 11 to 15 and 40 to 48).  Bizarrely, politicians of every political stripe lined up behind them without a single example of anyone looking at the details of the case or the law.  However, what continues to baffle and confound me is the refusal of Canadian journalists to allow any serious discussion of the case, in particular, the merits of Meng's defence.

Is the Meng arrest justified according to Canadian law?

Last week I watched a "rebroadcast" on CBC News of Natasha Fatah hosting a panel of three commentators to discuss Canada-China relations.  "How is it possible," I asked myself, "for four journalists to discuss current Canada-China relations, and never get around to the facts (let alone the legality) of our arresting and holding Meng Wanzhou?"

David Akin of Global News seemed to offer some hope of an open discussion with his "ANALYSIS: Trudeau cannot just order Huawei’s Meng Wanzhou to go free — or can he?"   Those three words-- "or can he?"-- are the nearest I have seen to any Canadian journalist opening up discussion of the grounds for Meng's release.  However the "analysis" turns out to be the usual diatribe designed to close down any rational dialogue.  Although Akin begins by noting that former Prime Minister Jean Chretien has joined John McCallum in discussing the possibility of releasing Meng Wanzhou, he then quotes University of Ottawa law professor Amir Attaran that “I think it’s shocking. [ . . . .] I think that’s absolutely inappropriate. If they want to make those comments, run for office again.”

Who in Canada is allowed to question Meng's arrest?

Take note of the Catch 22.  We have been told that elected officials and their appointees are not allowed to comment (on the grounds that "politicians" and their appointees cannot comment on "judicial" affairs).  Now we are being told that you have to be elected to comment.  Once you have eliminated both the elected and the un-elected, who's left?  We have to wonder, who is this Amir Attaran, who would have us believe that no-one is allowed to discuss the arrest or release of Meng Wanzhou?  According to his Wikipedia page, Amir Attaran has had a very distinguished legal career. He is an American-born Iranian who specializes in medical and environment cases.  Why is a medical/environment lawyer being asked to comment on an extradition case?

We get an answer to this question by reading to the bottom of Attaran's Wikipedia page, where we discover: "In 2013, Attaran accused Peter MacKay of falsely alleging that Justin Trudeau committed a crime by smoking marijuana."  And, when Attaran launch a complaint with the Canadian Human Rights Commission against the Canadian Research Chair program  "The government under Prime Minister Justin Trudeau sided with Attaran [ . . .].

Finally the questions is asked:  and the answer is . . . 

Akin asks the rhetorical question "Why suffer all that pain? Why not just send Meng back to China?" Then answers:  "But we cannot. At least, not right now. Because in Canada, like most western democracies and not — this cannot be stressed enough — like China, politicians cannot simply phone up a judge and order that an accused person be set free."  The folksy tone makes this claim sound like an obvious truth, but it is an absolute falsehood.  This is what the Extradition Act actually says:

Withdrawal of the authority to proceed 

 (3) The Minister may at any time withdraw the authority to proceed and, if the Minister does so, the court shall discharge the person and set aside any order made respecting their judicial interim release or detention.

According to Canadian law, extradition is a political decision

"The Minister" in this case is Minister of Justice.  So yes, a politician, according to the law, can put an end to these proceedings and have Meng released "at any time."

Akin claims that

Meng’s case is right now: before Associate Chief Justice Heather Holmes of the British Columbia Supreme Court. 
If Holmes does eventually rule that Canada should honour the extradition request by the United States — which has charged Meng with fraud in association with alleged violations of Huawei on American sanctions on trading with Iran — and surrender her to American authorities, there will be an opportunity for Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, through his justice minister, David Lametti, to intervene and, if they so choose, to block the extradition.
There is some truth in this claim, but it seems to deliberately get the chronology of events and responsibilities upside down. The Extradition Act specifies that

The Minister may, after receiving a request by an extradition partner for the provisional arrest of a person, authorize the Attorney General to apply for a provisional arrest warrant, if the Minister is satisfied that  
(a) the offence in respect of which the provisional arrest is requested is punishable in accordance with paragraph 3(1)(a); [i.e., that the crime is punishable by two years of imprisonment] 
and (b) the extradition partner will make a request for the extradition of the person.

As the Justice Committee hearings on SNC-Lavalin revealed, we have an odd situation in Canada in which the Minister of Justice and the Attorney General are the same person.  The Lavalin scandal was about the fact that the government was putting pressure on Jody Wilson-Raybould in her role as Attorney General.  Minister of Justice is a political office, distinct from the Attorney General.

Consider how this single paragraph of the law contradicts so much of what we have been told about the Meng case.  First, extraditions are clearly and explicitly political decisions in Canada.  Second, the Minister of Justice is the first to receive a request for extradition (and it is "a request"; so much for "we had no choice").  Third, the Minister of Justice authorizes the arrest, not a judge.  Fourth, once the Minister of Justice has given the authorization, the Attorney General can instruct a provincial judge (in this case ACJ Heather Holmes) to issue the arrest warrant.  What Akin's claim gets right is that the Minister of Justice can intervene "at any time," including after ACJ Holmes has made her decision.

 How can any Canadian claim we are "following the law"?

The law is explicit:

Powers of the Minister
Assurances et conditions 
(3) The Minister may seek any assurances that the Minister considers appropriate from the extradition partner, or may subject the surrender to any conditions that the Minister considers appropriate,
Not only does the law make it plain that the Minister of Justice (a politician) is responsible for the extradition, it lays out the specific circumstances in which a request for extradition is to be refused:

Reasons for Refusal
order not to be made 
 44 (1) The Minister shall refuse to make a surrender order if the Minister is satisfied that 
(a) the surrender would be unjust or oppressive having regard to all the relevant circumstances; or
(b) the request for extradition is made for the purpose of prosecuting or punishing the person by reason of their race, religion, nationality, ethnic origin, language, colour, political opinion, sex, sexual orientation, age, mental or physical disability or status or that the person’s position may be prejudiced for any of those reasons.

When order not to be made  
 46 (1) The Minister shall refuse to make a surrender order if the Minister is satisfied that  
[ . . . .]
(c) the conduct in respect of which extradition is sought is a political offence or an offence of a political character
And finally:
48 (1) If the Minister decides not to make a surrender order, the Minister shall order the discharge of the person.

Ignoring the law, then bragging about our "unwavering insistence of the rule of law"

Without a single citation from the law or even mention of the Canadian Extradition Act, Akin concludes:

Canada is a nation of laws with a fully independent judiciary to interpret and enforce those laws. Full stop. 
And the nations of the world — Chretien and McCallum, notwithstanding — can take inspiration and comfort from Canada’s unwavering insistence on the rule of law.

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