• Toronto, University of Toronto
  • November 16, 2009 - 15:00

News Blackouts Save Lives
November 17, 2009, Toronto


News Blackouts Save Lives



Robert Fowler, a Canadian diplomat and special envoy of the UN Secretary-General to Niger, discusses the significance of news blackouts in kidnapping cases. He is joined by Toronto Star publisher John Cruickshank, Globe and Mail foreign editor Stephen Northfield and CTV News president Robert Hurst to review his case as well as others and how they were affected by the media.


Robert Fowler on the media's role: video interview with CBC's Peter Mansbridge
Truth or consequences: The Mellissa Fung case: journalism ethics article by Stephen J.A. Ward
Times reporter escapes Taliban after 7 months: New York Times article on the kidnapping and escape of reporter David Rohde, and the news blackout during his ordeal.

About our Panelists


Bob FowlerRobert Fowler began his diplomatic career in 1969 as a Foreign Service Officer in the Department of External Affairs. Throughout the 1970s he held various postings in Ottawa, Paris, and at UN Headquarters in New York. During his 38-year career in public service, Fowler was the Foreign Policy Advisor to Prime Ministers Trudeau, Turner and Mulroney; Deputy Minister of National Defence; the Personal Representative for Africa for Prime Ministers Chretien, Martin and Harper; and Canada’s longest serving Ambassador to the United Nations.

On July 21, 2008, The Secretary General of the United Nations, Mr. Ban Ki-moon, appointed Fowler to be his Special Envoy to Niger, with the rank of Under-Secretary-General in the Secretariat of the UN. While acquitting his UN mission, Fowler and his colleague, Louis Guay, were captured by al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) on December 14, 2008. They were held hostage in the Sahara Desert for 130 days. Fowler, Guay, and two European tourists were released on April 21, 2009, following extensive negotiations.


John CruickshankJohn Cruickshank, a one-time reporter who has led news operations at the Globe and Mail, Chicago Sun-Times and the CBC, is currently publisher of the Toronto Star. He began his news career at the Kingston Whig-Standard and later worked at the Montreal Gazette and the Globe and Mail, where he eventually became managing editor in 1992. Three years later he became editor-in-chief of the Vancouver Sun. Between 2003 and 2007, Cruickshank was publisher of the Chicago Sun-Times where he survived and outlived the leadership of now imprisoned owner Conrad Black and his partner David Radler. In September, 2007, he returned to Canada to join the CBC. Cruickshank was head of CBC News at the time of Fowler's kidnapping.


Stephen Northfield Stephen Northfield has worked as an editor and reporter at the Globe and Mail for more than a decade. After a long stretch in Report on Business, where he worked as a reporter, columnist, investment editor and bureau editor, he moved to front section of the paper, worked as deputy national editor and was then appointed foreign editor in 2005. Prior to working at the Globe, Northfield held positions with Dow Jones in Toronto and with the London Free Press. He holds degrees in economics and journalism from the University of Western Ontario, and lives in Toronto with his wife and three children.


Robert HurstAs President of CTV News and Current Affairs, Robert Hurst oversees all aspects of CTV’s national, international and local news operations. During his 30+ years at CTV, Hurst has distinguished himself as an award-winning reporter, a foreign correspondent, news editor, and author. In his years as a correspondent, Hurst was posted to six Canadian and foreign bureaus: Ottawa, Edmonton, Halifax Beijing, Moscow and Washington. A multiple award winner, Hurst has been recognized for his coverage of the Canadian tuna scandal, civil wars in Central America and political upheaval in Haiti. In 2007, TV Guide named Mr. Hurst as the most powerful person in Canadian television news. In 2008, Hurst was awarded the RTNDA President’s Award for his record of distinguished service to the broadcast news industry.