St. Thomas journalism professor Philip Lee was called out during a panel discussion at St. Thomas University hosted by the New Brunswick Media Co-op.
Self-proclaimed activist/journalist Miles Howe used Lee’s quote from a CBC-Radio panel last fall to argue how biased the mainstream media was during the Rexton incident.
During an interview with Information Morning’s Terry Sequin, Lee was asked to respond to Howe’s claim that he was arrested for reporting during the Rexton shale gas protests. Howe said Monday night that Lee said, “Maybe journalists get arrested in Syria, but not here.”
Howe told the 100 people in attendance at the Kinsella auditorium that Lee’s comment supports a narrative that the mainstream media believe nothing is wrong with journalistic freedom in Canada – something the NB media co-op panel argued needs to be questioned.
During the discussion period, Lee corrected Howe’s quote, clarifying that what he had said was, “I’ve never been arrested for reporting in Canada.”
Lee, one of the few mainstream media journalists represented at the talk, left after his clarification.
“I didn’t know Mr. Howe [at the time of the CBC panel],” Lee told the AQ later. “It’s not like I have a problem with him or the Media Co-op.”
The shale gas protests in Rexton made for a wave of media reports, especially after RCMP broke up the protests. More than 40 people were arrested and five police cars were burned. On Monday, the New Brunswick Media Co-Op discussed how traditional and new media covered the events. Panellists argued mainstream media could have covered them better.
The panel discussion included: journalist and Kent County resident Dallas McQuarrie, APTN Reporter Jorge Barrera, Howe and Mi’qmaq activist Annie Clair.
Howe told the audience how his “heart spoke to him” to stay focused on the story, realizing that no other media outlet was covering the story of Elsipogtog adequately.
“I didn’t go to journalism school, and part of me says, ‘Thank God,’” he said. He recalled his experiences on the Canadian boat to Gaza in 2011, adding that he was glad to be a non-corporate media member.
Howe was arrested three times while reporting on the shale gas protests, where he was embedded with the protesters at their camp.
Lee said the talk on Monday was pretty uncomfortable.
“It was difficult for me to respond under those circumstances,” he said. “But I do know what I said. I wouldn’t ever say anything I didn’t think was accurate.”
Lee did not appreciate the incident, but said the Media Co-op does give people like Howe freedom in their writing.
“He’s certainly free to write about what he does. I’m totally supportive of that,” Lee said. “They have this great ability to provide alternative voices. I say go for it.”
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