David M. Bresnahan
CALGARY, Canada --
While the leaders of the Group Eight meet in the mountain resort of
Kananakis, the media are being kept confined two hours away in a Calgary
Spokesmen for the
countries involved travel to the office building to give briefings, and
sometimes only give reporters access to them over telephone conference
"There's a much
larger separation than is typical for a summit. And that was a decision
that was made consciously last year after Genoa to be able to create a
different environment for the summit," said White House Press
Secretary Ari Fleischer in a futile attempt to justify the closed
CBS White House
Correspondent Bill Plante told UPI the inability to have media present
at the summit sets a dangerous precedent for future access to similar
"I am certain the
president would have wanted us there for his announcement on the court
decision," Plant said referring to Bush's reaction to the ruling
that the Pledge of Allegiance was unconstitutional. "But this suits
their purpose. They get to control the media."
The media are not able
to see and hear what is happening first hand to act as the eyes and ears
of the public. They rely on reports from government spokesmen who tell
them only what they want them to know. Despite this, some European
reporters did not complain of the arrangements.
Olivier Knox, a
reporter with Agence France Press, said that the separation did not
affect his coverage of the summit.
Last year demonstrators
in the streets around the G8 conference shut down businesses during
violent protests that left one protester dead. Police in riot gear had
to use tear gas and rubber bullets. The protests were over globalization
The remote setting of
the meeting provides for greater security and a more informal setting
for leaders to talk. Fleischer said Bush and British Prime Minister Tony
Blair spent 20 minutes in the hotel gym.
"So that's the
type of informal setting that was sought in the original G8s that
evolved away, and with apologies to the press for the logistics and for
the separation that denies you the opportunity to kind of feel this and
see this texture yourselves, that is now the result of it,
however," Fleischer said.
So reporters are
confined with security concerns the excuse for not providing access to
meetings where decisions effecting the entire world are being made.
Journalists receive e-mail transcripts of news conferences, such as a
brief one given by Bush, Blair, and Canadian Prime Minister Jean
In the media room in
Calgary there are to small televisions and a large projection screen
showing the summit, but there is no sound.
Even the few pool
reporters who travel to the meeting location are not getting access to
the leaders, and get nowhere near Bush.
"It was only a
matter of time, perhaps, but what passes for White House coverage these
days have finally devolved into a Lewis Carroll absurdity in which White
House correspondents can travel on a three-day foreign trip and never
once lay eyes on the president -- not even if they draw a 12-hour pool
assignment," wrote Bob Deans of Cox News in his report to fellow
members of the media corps, according to UPI.
In his e-mail to other
reporters, Deans, who was in Kananaskis, said he could not even find out
what summit leaders had for lunch.
"Don't worry about
what they ate. We'll be told that by a [National Security Council]
official when he briefs later. (I am not making this up.)," Deans
Next year the G8 meet
in France. Perhaps journalists will just stay in their own news rooms
and get their e-mail briefings there. Freedom of the press has been
reduced to being free to write what government leaders tell them.
© David M. Bresnahan - All Rights
David M. Bresnahan [email protected]
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