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Thursday, November 16, 2006

A fine Canadian Press mess

I honestly can't tell what the heck is going on with China or for that matter with our news service Canadian Press. Yesterday you read about how that country had canceled a pre-APEC meeting with Prime Minister Harper. If you followed it on the web, you would have watched this story go through a multitude of updates and rewrites. I first encountered it on the CBC site early in the west coast morning, and noticed CBC was relying on a Canadian Press story by Jennifer Ditchburn. When I went to the original Ditchburn piece I found myself getting slightly annoyed because she was relying on unnamed “Chinese officials” and had somehow come up with the idea that Canada was being "snubbed" but I couldn't figure out if this was Ditchburn's interpretation, or if she had got it from somebody. From yesterday;

OTTAWA (CP) -- Prime Minister Stephen Harper will not have an official meeting with his Chinese counterpart during this week's Asia-Pacific Economic Co-operation conference in Vietnam, in an apparent snub by Beijing over the Conservative government's emphasis on human rights.

The two countries had been trying to negotiate a bilateral meeting to take place prior to the APEC leaders forum between Harper and President Hu Jintao. Chinese officials said Canada had approached them for a meeting in Hanoi, while Canadian officials said it was the other way around.

But by late Tuesday, a spokeswoman for Harper said there would be no meeting.

"China approached us about a meeting. We said yes. We have since learned that the meeting offer has now been declined," said Sandra Buckler, Harper's director of communications.

Buckler stated there was no given reason for the cancellation, so it is difficult to say where Ditchburn came up with this “apparent snub by Beijing over the Conservative government's emphasis on human rights.” Various experts were then introduced in various versions of the story--depending on where the piece appeared and who did additional reporting--about how the Harper government was messing up our trade relationship with China over such a silly thing as human rights. Btw, none of these stories mentioned the huge trade imbalance with China shipping way more stuff over here than we send over there: perhaps this would screw up the premise of the potential danger of insulting the Chinese because it would be apparent to readers that on balance China needed us as a customer more than we needed them, much like we need the US as a customer more than they need us.

The Globe offered their own piece that gave no source for the "snub" interpretation, but noting--an important note to my mind--that Chinese embassy officials were not speaking. Okay, so who were the unnamed “Chinese officials” in the original CP story? Did they give out this idea of a “snub” by a Beijing displeased over human rights? Was someone attempting to embarrass the Harper government?

By the end of the day Liberal MP Keith Martin had produced a press release "Conservatives Failing Canada with Foreign Affairs Flubs" counting the oh-so-many-ways the Conservatives had failed on the foreign policy front and leading off with the "snub":

The recent snub of Prime Minister Stephen Harper by the President of China is the latest in a long line of diplomatic blunders by the Conservative Government, Liberal Foreign Affairs Critic Dr. Keith Martin said today.

But the story had already moved past Martin. First, foreign affairs minister Peter MacKay stated something like "no big deal" (which today we see was correct). Then Harper in Anchorage on his way to Hanoi was asked about the "snub." He managed to turn a crisis into an opportunity by saying Canada will not trade human rights concerns for cash. Touché.

CTV today has a story today with something of a climb-down, though it is hard to tell if this unnamed source of CP's, as told to us in the CTV story, is the same as the unnamed Chinese officials in the first story;

But a source in Ottawa familiar with the details told the Canadian Press that China had simply asked whether the Harper government would be interested in meeting with Hu -- a subtle overture that's customary practice with some Asian countries.

Today we have another Ditchburn story that relies on the comments of the PM reacting to her original story, China, Canada still in awkward dance over potential meeting. Again we have her quoting unnamed "Chinese officials". There appears to be a subtle attempt by CP to put the blame on Harper for the original story (italics mine);

Chinese officials also denied that they had ever withdrawn an offer to meet with Harper. That version of events was at odds with what Harper himself recounted to reporters on his way to Hanoi...

But yesterday in the timeline as I saw it, Harper was merely reacting to the original Ditchburn story. Anyway, from a publicity point of view, if--as Ditchburn implies today--the story originated with Harper, then I guess it worked out quite well for him. He got to make a strong statement on Canadian values and the pre-APEC meeting is still a go... I think. If there was some kind of loose plan by "Chinese officials" or their friends in the Liberal Party to embarrass the Harper government, it appears to have backfired.

Posted by Kevin Steel on November 16, 2006 in International Affairs | Permalink


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CP is probably frantically trying to figure out how to spin this against Harper in a negative way. Yet how do you make him look bad when he is doing exactly what every liberal should admire - putting human rights ahead of the "almighty dollar" (as Harper himself said it this morning)?

Posted by: NCF TO | 2006-11-16 12:21:47 PM

You would not expect the CP Ditch to actually admit they were too quick to jump on the storyline, would you?

As I said on another thread, it's going to be interesting to see how the Libs backtrack on their premature accusations on Little Janie Taber's show yesterday.

Interesting how the MSM keeps shooting itself in the foot while continuing to aim at PM SH in a childish battle of egos.

Posted by: Set you free | 2006-11-16 12:23:07 PM

Isn't it bloody amazing how the Conservative could do so much damage in only nine months.

Truth is it's all the freaking crap the Liberals left after 13 years in office that has to be dealt with along with running the country's affairs.

It's no easy task with all the special interest groupies looking for their usual handouts, media people looking for the easy scoops they've become accustomed to and on and on.

Posted by: Liz J | 2006-11-16 12:32:37 PM

Canadian Press has been steadily going downhill for years. Today, they should all be focused on US Broadcaster NBC who are executing much of their "News" Staff. One cannot take CP as a serious news source, because one of their principal functions is to distribute Public Relations trivia, (otherwise\
known as bullshit). CP's Reporting some years ago
of the fatal Arrow Airlines Crash at Gander Newfoundland was bizarre, since most of their "facts" were untrue and later the subject of much discussion by real Journalists like Len Filotis.

Posted by: Jack MacLeod | 2006-11-16 1:25:26 PM

This story has been a real Schnorrer.

But the one in the following link, is something we here at Shotgunblog should sink our teeth into. This guy, who has advocated for freedom of the press, and relations with Christians and Jews, needs some support.

Salah Choudhury was imprisoned for 17 months after being charged with sedition on November 29, 2003.

The Bangladeshi journalist put himself in a highly precarious position by openly advocating relations between Israel and Bangladesh, along with all Muslim nations.


Posted by: Lady | 2006-11-16 2:13:26 PM

Can anyone please explain how CP works?

It is my understanding that it is member driven and some stories are written by "CP" writers and some are poached from member publications.

But what interests me more is how they deal with corrections. Do they run the correction/clarification in all papers in which a story ran initially or only those that had vigilant readership?


Nicely done Kevin!!!

Now that Ignuttenuff has called it 'megaphone' diplomacy, will someone call the CP to task?

Posted by: Ceeping Tile | 2006-11-16 9:06:17 PM

"on balance China needed us as a customer more than we needed them, much like we need the US as a customer more than they need us."

This is laughable. If Canada was wiped out by a freakishly massive people crushing arctic glacier the Chinese economy would not suffer. However Canada would absolutely cease to function without the US as a customer.

The Conservatives have bungled the China relationship by not being unified in their message and by not giving it high priority. The only cabinet level visit we've made so far is the minister of Agriculture. This is to the biggest market in the world. Sure we want to sell them wheat and pigs but we also want to sell them planes and phones. The Conservatives need to develop a COHERENT China policy.

The Chinese were certainly intentional in leaving Harper to wait. This meeting should have been sorted out well before Harper was in Hanoi. By leaving him so long and letting the press run stories like this the Chinese embassy was clearly indicating their displeasure.

The fact that the press has been somewhat confused simply indicates that it is a difficult story to cover. The Chinese aren't going to come out and say "We're snubbing Ottawa." Diplomatic snubs are implied, not explicitly articulated.

Posted by: Ryan | 2006-11-17 6:10:42 AM

China does want to have a piece of the Canadian market. She desires markets from anywhere. But to think that China take Canada as seriously as she does with the US and EU, you are deadly wrong. China has developed into a stage that she can no longer be intimidated no more by no one, not to mention Canada who got so little on its' plate. Yes, we got resouces. then a lot other country's got them too and are much closer to the mainland. This whole idea of human right sounds all great and romantic but it has almost lost entirely its' bearing after all that are happening now with the War. It is only silly and childish for the Harper government to the kind of stand as it has been. It is absolutely true that China has a long way to go before getting to becoming a country that fare to all. Then again, are we there yet? By the way, how come that we have so little coverage on the unprecedented progress China has achieved in such a short time.

Posted by: Tony | 2006-11-17 7:40:34 AM

Although we "got" so little on our plate, standing on, and for principle is always the right thing to do.

Something that has become complete foreign to the "new liberal" Canada.

Kudos to Harper for showing class, principle, and strength.

Posted by: deepblue | 2006-11-17 7:48:11 AM

This year China will replace the Canada as the no 1 exporter to US. It's well on the track.

Posted by: yachi | 2006-11-17 10:56:40 AM

Canadian Press gets it's information from the very same international media moguls, as everyone else. Their sources, amongst others, include Associated Press, and Reuters.

What they appear to do, is water down the content of already watered down content, in order to make it fit with their opinions on what Canadians prefer to see and say about those matters they are reporting on. In this manner, you will see the biases expressed, and meaty terms, such as "terrorist" changed to "militant" or "resistence fighters" or not at all. You will see the language, ethnic, or religious identification of groups committing attrocities, watered down, with greater exageration placed onto other groups. Often those groups were the ones who were attacked and defending themselves, in the first place. They write, to appease, to behave as cowards, walking away from the truth, in the hopes that maybe one day, they might be recognized as an excellent course of information.

If all I wanted for the holidays to come, was some acurate and reliable reporting from them, well, I would be wasting my time, and have better luck sending my wishes off to the North Pole.

Posted by: Lady | 2006-11-17 1:55:14 PM

Here is an example of good journalism. This is an unbiased source ( I think it's Australian? not sure...) that gave me more facts then anything from the Canadian media.



Posted by: Firefly | 2006-11-18 5:39:11 PM

Interesting that these papers beloved by right wing north americans are all owned by cultish asian religious figures, the Washington Times (linked to Rev. Sun Yung Moon) and Epoch Times (a Falun Gong organ).
As for good journalism, firefly, if you like your journalism full of unidentified sources and recycled quotes, then your opinion about what's good and bad isn't worth much.

Posted by: truewest | 2006-11-18 9:52:48 PM

"Interesting that these papers beloved by right wing north americans are all owned by cultish asian religious figures..."

I'm a right wing North American and these papers aren't beloved my me.

Where are you getting your opinions?

Posted by: h2o273kk9 | 2006-11-19 8:22:48 AM

You're hilarious. And, apparently, so entirely self-absorbed that you believe that you can, by excluding yourself, invalidate any reasonable generalization that holds true for hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of people. Hate to break it to you, but you're not that big a deal.

Posted by: truewest | 2006-11-19 8:58:55 AM

What you call reasonable generalization, I call blanket stereotype.

Prejudice is intolerant.

Where are you getting your opinions?

Posted by: h2o273kk9 | 2006-11-19 9:07:34 AM

"...you believe that you can, by excluding yourself, invalidate any reasonable generalization that holds true for hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of people. "

Additionally, as I only mentioned that these papers weren't beloved my me, where did I invalidate your "reasonable generalization" in the first place?

Posted by: h2o273kk9 | 2006-11-19 9:11:39 AM

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