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Independent Journalists to Converge in Quebec City, April, 2001

Demonstrators planning to attend the Summit of the Americas in Quebec City in April will be confronted by the largest security operation in Canadian history, but a group organizing structures to help independent journalists is prepared for it.
Independent journalists to converge in Quebec City
Josh Cuppage 2001-01-24

The Centre for Media Alternatives of Quebec 2001 (CMAQ,) is preparing for its launch with the help of various partners including Alternatives, other progressive organizations, independent journalists and the Link.

Véronica Rioux, who is helping to prepare the CMAQ for the Summit said that those involved with the demonstrations usually don't like the term "counter-summit." "I think it's called a popular summit," she said.

The plans for the official summit largely centre around trade. Many world leaders that will be in attendance are hoping to put the finishing touches on an agreement to open the planned Free Trade Area of the Americas (FTAA). The FTAA essentially extends the current North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) to the entire continent.

Rioux said that CMAQ is expecting independent journalists from different parts of the hemisphere in April. Her group will be providing spaces in which they will be able to do their work. She is concerned, however, that summit security may try to prevent those individuals from documenting both the official and popular summits.

"I have concerns about independent journalists doing their jobs. Similar circumstances in the past (where independent media was interfered with) make me worried."

Christian Dubois, who is working with the CMAQ, echoes that sentiment. "If we think of past experiences, Seattle, I think was pretty good, but Boston was not," he said.

Rioux said the group is hopeful that the summit security forces will leave the CMAQ to peacefully go about their work.

Some signs from the RCMP suggest that concern may be well-founded. RCMP spokeswoman Julie Brongel hopes that certain parts of the city will be wiped clean of demonstrators. All of the summit's venues will be off-limits to protesters, she told the Link in September. "We're worried about having a lot of people outside the sites," she said.

This is the thought behind a planned barricade which will encircle much of Quebec City for the duration of the conference. About four kilometres of wire fencing will be used to form the barricade. Those wishing to enter the security zone will be asked to provide official documents stating that they have authorization to enter the area. Over 3,000 officers from various police forces will also be called in over the three days.

While the security zone has come under fire from many of the groups that plan to demonstrate in Quebec City, Brongel also explained that the massive effort is necessary. "Some groups have been quite vocal about their wishes to disrupt the summit," she noted.

Dubois is devoting some of his time to the CMAQ's cause by giving print journalism workshops for independent journalists next month. He says that the organization is hopeful that they will welcome over 100 independent journalists to the summits, mostly from Canada and the United States.

-with files from Andrea Huncar

The official Montreal launch of the CMAQ, will take place on Thursday, February 1 at 7:30 pm, at the Café Campus, 57 Prince Arthur East. Information about the FTAA will be available, along with musical entertainment and video screenings. For more information visit www.cmaq.net/
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