Volume #14 - 238.|
ECONOMIC AND SOCIAL COUNCIL AND SPECIALIZED AGENCIES
ECONOMIC AND SOCIAL COUNCIL
CONFERENCE ON FREEDOM OF INFORMATION AND OF THE PRESS
Memorandum from Under-Secretary of State for External Affairs|
to Secretary of State for External Affairs
January 29th, 1948|
The question of appointing a suitable delegation to the United Nations Conference on Freedom of Information and of the Press is one that requires immediate attention as the Conference is scheduled to commence in Geneva on the 23rd of March, and a good deal of preparatory work needs to be done before that time.
In an informal discussion with members of the Department, Mr. G.V. Ferguson, Editor of The Montreal Star, who was Rapporteur of the United Nations Sub-Commission on Freedom of Information and of the Press, although not an official representative of Canada, expressed the view that the delegation should consist of representatives of the working press, radio and film interests of Canada. The resolution of the Economic and Social Council concerning delegations stated that they should include in each instance persons "actually engaged or experienced in press, radio, motion pictures and other media for the dissemination of information." The resolution of the Economic and Social Council calls for a delegation of five delegates, five alternates and as many advisers as necessary.
Two main alternative types of delegation are possible:
(1) A full sized delegation representative of the media of information in Canada;
(2) A smaller delegation headed possibly by one of our diplomatic representatives, accompanied by one or two press representatives, and representatives of the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation and National Film Roard.
The appointment of a delegation on the lines of the first alternative requires that careful attention should be paid to the inclusion of such groups in the newspaper field as the Canadian Press, the Parliamentary Press Gallery, the Canadian Daily Newspaper Association, the Canadian Weekly Newspaper Association, the Canadian Women's Press Club, the Periodical Press and possibly the British United Press as well. In the film field, I think that the National Film Roard would be sufficient and possibly someone like Mr. J.J. Fitzgibbon of Famous Players. In radio, it would be necessary to have representatives from both the C.R.C., and the private radio organization of the Canadian Association of Rroadcasters. In the latter case, the inclusion of Mr. Clifford Sifton in the delegation might cover both press and private radio interests. At the technical level, there should be someone from the government information side, a legal adviser, and a Secretary and an Assistant Secretary.
Attached is a list of names which have been suggested, based on the assumption that a delegation of this kind is approved by the Government.
The main advantages of a delegation of this kind are that it would place responsibility for freedom on information directly on the publishers, editors and correspondents of this country, and that it would go far to meet the legitimate interest of the media representatives in the subject under discussion. Reports from the Embassy in Washington are that the United States delegation is to be built up on these lines, with prominence being given to representatives of the media rather than to government participation.
The disadvantages of a delegation of this kind seem to be three-fold. In the first place, the task of selection is undoubtedly a difficult one and there will inevitably be complaints from groups and individuals wishing to be included. Secondly, it is unlikely that the results of the Conference will justify the expenditure of a great deal of time and money. Finally, a delegation, the majority of whose members will be wholly inexperienced in the temper of present-day international discussions, may come away from the proposed Conference with a feeling that all international discussions are a waste of time.
The alternative to a delegation consisting in the majority of acknowledged lead. ers in the press, radio and film field of Canada would be an inter-government repre. sentation confined to the C.R.C., the National Film Board and the advisory level and is worthy of exploration. It would presumably take the form of a much smaller delegation headed possibly by our Minister in Switzerland, with two representatives from the press of Canada and representatives of the C.B.C. and the National Film Board.
When a decision is reached in principle as to the character of the delegation, the question of its composition can then be examined.81
81 Note marginale :/Marginal note: