The president and publisher of Pacific Newspaper Group, which publishes the Vancouver Sun and Province, Kevin Bent, distributed a memo to staff yesterday (June 6) defending CanWest MediaWorks lawsuit against political activist Mordecai Briemberg. Here is what Bent wrote:
Pacific Newspaper Group president and publisher Kevin Bent’s June 6, 2008 memo to staff.
June 6, 2008
MEMO TO: All Employees at Pacific News Group
FROM: Kevin Bent
Every day approximately half a million British Columbians turn to the pages of The Vancouver Sun to be their reliable source for community, provincial, national and international news.
It’s a reputation that has been earned over the past century of journalistic excellence and steadfast commitment to fairness, balance and accuracy. The integrity that our journalists put into their craft has been recognized numerous times at the local, provincial and national level. Their hard work has been instrumental in creating a climate of community trust.
That trust was violated on June 7, 2007 when a counterfeit version of The Vancouver Sun was published and distributed to thousands of commuters during the morning rush hour. This piece was not satirical. It was not a clever spoof. It was a deliberate act to mislead and misinform thousands of people by using the actual Vancouver Sun masthead, logo and layout.
The people behind this identify theft went to great lengths to distribute thousands of copies of the counterfeit newspaper to unknowing Vancouver Sun customers. The broke into our newspaper boxes and wrapped their product around the genuine newspaper. These people did not stand up for their work. Instead, they worked very hard to cover their tracks.
It was a cowardly act of public deception that no business, charity, public institution or publication could or would stand for. The day after the incident, I said that we took these actions very seriously and would take appropriate legal action. On December 14, 2007, The Vancouver Sun commenced, in the B.C. Supreme Court, legal action against individuals who are believed to be responsible for the publication and distribution of the counterfeit newspaper. That legal action continues to work its way through the legal system.
Some have tried to portray this action as an attack on free speech. You may have even received an email enlisting your support in opposing our legal action. I am writing to you today to explain why we believe this argument is a red herring. Our record for supporting, encouraging and defending free speech is well documented, as is the record of Canwest. This includes opening our pages as a community forum for competing points of view on a host of issues. Every year we publish thousands of varying opinion from commentators, politicians, educators and our readers. We do this knowing that for every opinion offered, there is a contrary opinion. Throughout Canada, when the voice of others has been stifled, Canwest has funded lawsuits to protect the right to free speech.
The trust that The Vancouver Sun has earned with its readers and its advertisers has been hard earned over decades of service. This is our track record, our legacy. It is symbolized by our masthead.
We have a duty to protect the generations of journalists who have worked hard everyday to build a reputation for fairness, balance and accuracy because these are the vital ingredients of community trust that allow newspapers to properly serve their communities.
It is this trust that we are defending. The issue is not about free speech. It is about someone illegally using our identity to deliberately deceive others. The way we see it, our name – and our masthead – is our bond with our readers, our advertisers and our employees.
It is worth fight for because, when our readers wake up in the morning and go to their Vancouver Sun, they have the right to expect and trust what is in its pages is true, balanced and fair reporting that upholds the highest journalistic standards.
We understand that a demonstration has been planned for Granville Square today. It is our hope that it will be a lawful and peaceful event. Employees who have questions or concerns about the lawsuit are encouraged to contact me.
President & Publisher