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How the Media Confuses Fact and Political Spin

July 27, 2013

By Yves Engler

What’s the difference between fact and political spin in Canada’s “national” newspaper?

Not much if a recent Globe and Mail article is any indication.

In an article about the overthrow of Egyptian President Mohammed Morsi foreign affairs reporter Campbell Clark claims Ottawa faced a “conundrum in responding to” Morsi’s ouster since “the Harper government [is] normally critical of any military takeover”.

Did anybody bother to check if this was true? If anybody had, it would have quickly become obvious that Clark’s claim has no basis in fact. The Harper government has backed military coups, opposed pro-democracy movements and deepened ties to monarchies from Morocco to Saudi Arabia.

The Conservatives stuck with the military-backed Egyptian dictator Hosni Mubarak until literally the last possible minute of his 29-year reign. After 18 days of popular protest and about three hours before Mubarak’s resignation was announced publicly on February 11, 2011, Stephen Harper told a Newfoundland audience: “Our strong recommendations to those in power would be to lead change. To be part of it and to make a bright future happen for the people of Egypt.” Unlike many allied countries, the PM failed to call for Mubarak’s immediate departure.

The Harper government took a similar position towards the Tunisian pro-democracy protests that erupted weeks before Mubarak’s downfall. Harper stuck with the 23-year dictatorship of Zine El Abidine Ben Ali to the bitter end despite protests by Tunisian Canadians and various international organizations.

According to internal documents acquired by Postmedia, two weeks into mounting popular protests, on December 30, 2010, Freedom House asked Foreign Affairs to make a statement on the “ever-worsening situation” in Tunisia. The Conservatives stalled, waiting for the US/European reaction to Ben Ali’s repression. “Given that like-minded (allies) have not issued statements and the time lag since events, we do not see a strong rationale to issue something now,” one internal email explained. Twenty-six days after the protests began, on January 12, Foreign Affairs finally released a somewhat tepid statement criticizing Ben Ali’s worst excesses. And, after Ben Ali stepped down on January 14, Ottawa immediately endorsed his political party’s bid to maintain control through a dubious transition plan. Read more in the Huffington Post.

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