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Christine St-Pierre has proposed licensing journalists in Quebec. (Credit: Christine St Pierre, screenshot)

Will Quebec regulate and differentiate between bloggers and journalists?

A similar idea was proposed unsuccessfully last year in Michigan, but a Canadian politician recently proposed “a new model of regulation of Quebec media” including labeling who is and isn’t a journalist.

The politician, Quebec’s Culture Minister Christine St-Pierre, wants to separate journalists who work to benefit “the public interest” from “amateur bloggers,” National Post explained.

Those defined journalists would likely receive “unspecified ‘advantages or privileges'” including “better access to government sources.”

While the National Post explained the proposal wouldn’t ban “anyone from practicing journalism,” it suggests those deemed legitimate journalists would get perks.  The proposal would give the authority to define journalists to journalists groups in the area, like the Fédération professionnelle des journalistes du Québec.

While that group backs defining journalism, ” it wants criteria for obtaining the status to be set by journalists themselves,” National Post reported.

The Montreal Gazette’s Klaus Pohle argued against defining journalists and commented that “state regulation of journalism is a dangerous idea.”

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According to Pohle, who is also a journalism professor at Carleton University, “One of the defining characteristics of journalism in most Western countries – certainly in Canada – is, paradoxically perhaps, the very fact that it is not defined.”

Pohle seemed to support the idea of discussing media’s “role in society,” but rejected St-Pierre’s call to define journalism as “unneccessary, unworkable, and perhaps even dangerous.”

He noted that by defining journalism and establishing “regulation,” journalists will be viewed separately from citizens as “regulation creates a hierarchy of citizens and journalists.”

Pohle also questioned how the regulation would define journalists and how “the freelancer, the videographer, the blogger, the occasional contributor to a newspaper or website, and so on and so on” come into play.  He also questioned how the regulation won’t eventually end in censorship.

iMediaEthics wrote to the Canadian Association of Journalists for more information.  The group’s president Hugo Rodrigues told iMediaEthics that the group is meeting later this month to discuss its position on St-Pierre’s proposal and to “try to tackle the broader questions relating to combinations of the words journalist and profession.”  As such, Rodrigues explained he wouldn’t be able to respond to our questions about CAJ’s positions and involvement in any licensing or definition of journalists by Canada until the mid-September meeting.

We also asked how CAJ defines or accepts members.  He explained: “Our bylaws define an active member as someone who spends the majority of their time and earns the majority of their income from practising journalism. However, unless our position takes us there, we don’t necessarily extend that definition to help categorize who may or may not be a journalist.”

iMediaEthics has written to the Federation of Professional Journalists in Quebec  for more information and will update with any response. We’ve also written to Christine St-Pierre for more information and will update with any response.

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Will Quebec license journalists? Politician Proposes Media Regulation

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