Journalism Licences Could Be The Future

Journalist Beryl Wajsman Speaks on Accreditation

Journalists in Quebec could find themselves losing that exact title, if a bill being debated in the National Assembly is passed.

Beryl Wajsman, Editor in Chief of The Suburban, addressed his concerns for a proposed plan to accredit journalists in Quebec at the Atwater Library on Nov. 20.

The proposal will be debated in the National Assembly on Friday, Nov. 25.

In an age of easily accessed and distributed information, the definition of what a journalist is and who gets to be one is close to being obscured.

“If we don’t intervene actively in the process of governance, we’re not doing our jobs anymore because one can no longer trust the state,” said Wajsman.

According to Wajsman, members of the Federation of Professional Journalists of Quebec have found citizen journalists to be a problem at press conferences, city council and general assembly meetings. Their problem, though, isn’t the information being put out there–it’s that they’re usual front row seats are now being taken by the average citizen, which pushes the large mainstream media players back.

Brian Myles, the president of the FPJQ, is refusing comment until after the National Assembly debate.

“So they, ‘people in our profession,’ came up with the idea that the state should accredit a journalist. What it really meant was, these journalists wanted an easier life for themselves,” said Wajsman. Taking the point of view of the government, he continued, “who could pass up an idea like this […] think of it, we get to decide two classes of journalist. We can decide what information we give to whom and when, we can decide who sits in the front row in front of ministers, we can decide who is allowed in to the houses of the people, the assembly, city hall.”

Wajsman was the first to point out a problem with this. While every other Anglophone newspaper in the province held back on the story, Wajsman did what he says a proper journalist should do: get angry.

“If the government—if the first and second estates of our society—the executive and the legislature, get to determine who is a member of the fourth estate, what is to stop them from determining who stand for political office?” Wajsman asked the crowd.

“All these people trying to curry favor from the government […] what if all they’re thinking of is who am I going to piss off?