March 23, 2016 4:49 pm
Updated: March 23, 2016 5:11 pm

Manitoba Liberal Leader Rana Bokhari saying media ignoring stories because of ad money

Rana Bokhari would not supply any specific examples but claims media outlets ignore stories because of advertisement.

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WINNIPEG — Manitoba Liberal Leader Rana Bokhari says media outlets are not covering some stories about the NDP government because they rely on government advertising.

Bokhari was asked Wednesday to provide specific examples and did not. She said she shares a widely held belief that media coverage is shaped in part by the power of government ad revenues.

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“I don’t see it as a negative thing. I think it’s common knowledge that people believe that that’s the way the system works,” said Bokhari, who added that it wasn’t a matter of ethics among reporters.

“This isn’t about integrity … the question is about an opinion that, like any business, ad dollars matter and that’s the end of it.”

Bokhari was pressed after a recording of her surfaced online. The audio dates from a December meeting between the Liberal leader and a man who came to her for help getting mental-health services.

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The man complained that reporters were not interested in his story. Bokhari responded with comments about the media and politicians.

“Media is not going to touch it because media survives off government ads,” Bokhari is heard to say in the recording.

“That’s the only way mainstream media is surviving right now, so they don’t touch it.”

Bokhari is heard to tell the man that political parties won’t touch his story either because there’s a “frickin’ election four months from now.”

Bokhari said Wednesday she was not aware she was being recorded, but stands by her comments.

The president of the Canadian Association of Journalists, Nick Taylor-Vaisey, said Bokhari should provide evidence to back up her remarks.

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“All you have to do is open any newspaper on any given day in any city, town, village in Canada, and you will find that many reporters are critical of the government that they cover … because that’s their job.”

Bob Cox, publisher of the Winnipeg Free Press, said Manitoba’s NDP government has been under fire due to many stories that were broken by mainstream media. He also said the scenario described by Bokhari does not exist.

“No government person has ever once tried to influence the Winnipeg Free Press because of advertising being placed in the newspaper.”

The Liberals have one of 57 legislature seats, but opinion polls suggest their popularity has jumped in advance of the April 19 election. Bokhari, a former lawyer, has never held elected office and is running for a legislature seat in the Fort Rouge constituency in Winnipeg against New Democrat Wab Kinew and Progressive Conservative Audrey Gordon.

© 2016 The Canadian Press

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