The City of Moose Jaw has not held its weekly pandemic news conferences in weeks, which has prevented the media from asking questions, so the Moose Jaw Express went directly to the mayor for answers.
The Express emailed Mayor Fraser Tolmie several coronavirus-related questions at 12:53 p.m. on April 24, seeking more information about the cancellation of the news conferences and clarity on other issues such as when the media can attend city council meetings in person.
At 4:45 p.m. on Friday, Tolmie emailed back his responses. He did not answer all of the questions.
The first set of questions asked about the cancellation of the news conferences, what prompted this decision, how city hall planned to communicate with residents, and why Tolmie was showing preference to one Moose Jaw news outlet despite saying in a previous email that all media should be treated with “fairness.”
“The premier rolled out the ‘Re-Open Saskatchewan Plan’ yesterday (April 23). Council and administration will be closely reviewing this document and the potential impacts it will have in the future concerning Moose Jaw,” Tolmie wrote.
“News conferences these past two weeks have not been necessary because there have been no significant operational changes. This has not stopped us from issuing media updates, which all media are entitled to. Typically, when media receive those releases, they are free to contact us just like you have done through this email.”
In the second set of questions, the Express asked when city hall would allow the media to attend meetings in person and who made the original decision to lock out media.
“According to the Re-Open Saskatchewan plan, we will be looking at restrictions being lifted for media in Phase 3 when public gatherings are being increased to 15 persons,” wrote Tolmie, “but no date has been decided by the province on when Phase 3 will be implemented.”
Another question asked how many people attended the April 13 council meeting. The Express heard from sources at city hall that more than 10 people attended the meeting at one point.
“Our last council meeting had a limit of 10. However, one person from administration did show up unexpectedly during the middle of the meeting and he was asked to leave once it was recognized that we were over the limit,” Tolmie said.
City manager Jim Puffalt said on April 9 that Moose Jaw is an “independent organization,” makes its own decisions and doesn’t need to follow the example of other cities, the Express pointed out. However, Puffalt’s April 13 council report indicated city administration followed Regina and Saskatoon as examples to implement financial measures to help residents during the pandemic. The Express wondered if Tolmie approved of the city manager misleading the media and giving contradictory answers.
“Concerning the financial measures that Moose Jaw City Council has taken, we decided to work from what we felt we could make cuts to. In discussions with mayor of other communities such as Regina and Saskatoon, they implemented measures and then had to find ways to cut costs,” Tolmie wrote. “We looked at ways that we could save and deliver internally before making any decisions.
“The end result may have been the same outcome, but our process was different from other communities. It would be irresponsible for council and administration not to look at other communities and see what measures they are taking at this time. It must be stated the decisions are with council and we are looking out for the best interests of the residents of Moose Jaw.”
The city manager also said on April 9 that city hall had locked out the media to keep council chambers safe for the emergency measures organization (EMO) team, the Express said. The newspaper asked the mayor how city administration determined whether EMO members were healthy and whether the members were tested beforehand.
“It is essential that the EMO team are protected from any unnecessary exposure,” Tolmie said, “and we have made every effort to provide multiple viewing options so that media and the public have unfiltered access including recorded votes.”
The next regular council meeting is Monday, May 11.
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Facebook slaps labels on 'state-controlled' media outlets – ZDNet
Facebook has begun labelling media outlets it deems to be “state-controlled”, which it assesses based on various factors such as government influence and ownership. It also will slap similar labels on ads from these publishers later this year in a move, it says, aims to provide greater transparency.
The social media platform on Thursday kicked off efforts to label media organisations that were “wholly or partially” under the editorial control of their government. It had announced plans to do so last October as part of a string of initiatives to curb election interference on its site.
Applying labels to state-controlled media outlets would offer “greater transparency” to readers who should know if the news came from publications that might be under the influenced of a government, Facebook’s head of cybersecurity policy, Nathaniel Gleicher, said in a post. He added that similar labels would be placed on ads from these publishers later this year.
Applied globally, these labels would be placed on the publication’s Pages, Ad Library Page, and Page Transparency section. They also would be extended to posts in News Feeds in the US over the next week, Gleicher said.
In addition, later this year, ads from such media outlets would be blocked in the US “to provide an extra layer or protection” against foreign influence in the public debate around the upcoming US elections in November, he said.
A check on China’s Xinhua News and Russia’s Sputnik News profiles on Facebook revealed each had a label, displayed as “China state-controlled media” and “Russian state-controlled media”, under their respective Page Transparency section.
Such labels, however, would not be added to US news outlets because Facebook believed these organisations, including those run by the US government, had editorial independence, Gleicher said in a Reuters report.
In establishing its policy criteria, he said in his post that Facebook consulted more than 65 experts worldwide who specialised in media, governance, and human rights development to understand the “different ways and degrees” to which governments exerted editorial control over media companies.
He noted that the defining qualities of state-controlled media extended beyond government funding and ownership and included an assessment of editorial control. To determine if publishers were wholly or partially under the government’s editorial control, he said Facebook looked at various factors including the media organisation’s mission statement and mandate, ownership structure, editorial guidelines around sources of content, information about newsroom staff, funding source, and accountability mechanisms.
Country-specific factors, such as press freedom, also were assessed, he said.
Media organisations that disagreed with such labels could submit an appeal with Facebook and offer documentation to argue their case. To demonstrate their independence, publishers should provide indication of established procedures to ensure editorial independence or an assessment by an independent, credible organisation that determined such procedures had been adhered to and their country’s statute — safeguarding editorial independence — had been observed.
But while it is moving to stick labels on such media outlets, Facebook is less willing to do so for other types of content. CEO Mark Zuckerberg recently came under fire for refusing to take action against posts from US President Donald Trump, including one that appeared to incite violence against protesters in the country. The post, which first appeared on Twitter and was reposted on Facebook, was later restricted on Twitter for breaching its policies on glorifying violence. Zuckerberg, however, specifically declined to enforce similar action, prompting several of his employees to stage a “virtual walkout” in protest.
Facebook last September said advertisers running campaigns on social issues, elections, and politics on its platform in Singapore would have to confirm their identity and location, and reveal who was responsible for the ads. It said the move was part of efforts to stem the spread of “misinformation” and help block foreign interference in local elections. It also came amid calls from Singapore’s Minister for Law and Home Affairs K. Shanmugam for regulations to deal with “hostile information campaigns”.
Facebook earlier this week complied with a Singapore government directive to block local access the National Times Singapore page, but described the order as “severe and risk being misused to stifle voices and perspectives” online. The social media platform in February also had adhered to the government’s order to block local access the States Times Review page, whilst highlighting it was “deeply concerned” that the move stifled freedom of expression in Singapore.
Such government directives were enabled by the country’s Protection from Online Falsehoods and Manipulation Act (POFMA), which was passed in May last year, following a brief public debate, and came into effect on last October along with details on how appeals against directives could be made. The Bill had passed despite strong criticism that it gave the government far-reaching powers over online communication and would be used to stifle free speech as well as quell political opponents.
China says social media firms should not selectively create obstacles for media – The Guardian
BEIJING (Reuters) – China said on Friday that social media companies should not selectively create obstacles for media agencies, responding to Facebook Inc’s decision to start labeling state-controlled media organisations.
Foreign ministry spokesman Geng Shuang told reporters during a daily briefing that any media agency operating in line with relevant laws of various countries should be treated equally.
The world’s biggest social network will apply the label to Russia’s Sputnik, Iran’s Press TV and China’s Xinhua News, according to a partial list Facebook provided.
(Reporting by Huizhong Wu; writing by Se Young Lee; editing by John Stonestreet)
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