Membership in press councils should be compulsory: Moon

“Newspapers and news magazines should seek to revitalize the provincial/regional press councils and ensure that identifiable groups are able to pursue complaints if they feel they have been unfairly represented in mainstream media,” declares an independent report about online hate speech, released by the Canadian Human Rights Commission.

In the absence of press councils,  report author Richard Moon called for “the statutory creation of a national press council with compulsory membership. This national press council would have the authority to determine whether a newspaper or magazine has breached professional standards and order the publication of the press council’s decision.

“A newspaper is not simply a private participant in public discourse; it is an important part of the public sphere where discussions about the affairs of the community takes place. As such it carries a responsibility to portray the different groups that make up the Canadian community fairly and without discrimination.”

Early media attention to Moon’s report, released early Nov. 24. focused on his recommendation that the Criminal Code be used instead of human rights commissioners to tackle hate speech on the Internet.

I think Moon’s comments about press councils are far more interesting — and controversial.

Moon’s report is on the web site of the Canadian Human Rights Commission.