WPFC urges vigilance, openness on foreign intervention

World Press Freedom Canada welcomes Madam Justice Marie-Josée Hogue’s report into foreign interference on Canadian elections. We note with concern her conclusions that state actors – predominantly the People’s Republic of China – use disinformation, media manipulation and other tools to undermine Canada’s free and fair elections.

Among Hogue’s conclusions:

  • Fairness of Canadian elections “presupposes that voters have access to reliable information.”
  • China “has been assessed by Canadian authorities as the most active foreign state actor engaged in interference directed at government officials, political organizations, candidates for political office, and diaspora communities.”
  • Foreign governments target a wide range of media outlets to spread disinformation, amplify a particular message and manipulate public opinion. “This includes both traditional outlets such as television, radio and newspapers, as well as online sources and social media. Both mainstream media outlets as well as community sources – such as Canadian-based foreign-language media – are targets.”
  • Some foreign states “engage in sophisticated campaigns that effectively obscure the sources of disinformation.”
  • “The digital era has opened up new avenues for the spread of disinformation and has made it an attractive tool for foreign interference.”

WPFC urges Canadians at all levels must be vigilant in defending our democracy and press freedom. We recognize that foreign states and other bad actors take advantage of our free society to work against our collective interest.

We must find a healthy approach in protecting our liberties while defending our institutions. Openness, in the form of timely communication to Canadians about the interference and threats, is the best disinfectant.

We applaud the work of the journalists who brought this foreign interference to light over the past few years.