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Science journalists ask Harper to stop muzzling research and free expression

As world-renowned scientists and communicators are gathering in Vancouver for the annual meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS), Canadian science journalists released an open letter today directed at Prime Minister Stephen Harper.

The letter is an appeal from leading scientific and journalistic organizations, urging Harper and his government to stop muzzling federal scientists. Groups like the World Federation of Science Journalists and Canadian Journalists for Free Expression are taking the government to task for attempting to silence respected voices in the scientific community, seeking freedom for researchers to speak to media without consent.

"Over the past four years, journalists and scientists alike have exposed the disturbing practices of the Canadian government in denying journalists timely access to government scientists. Open letters to your government from concerned journalists have been followed by editorials and public lectures calling for improved access. Still, cases of government muzzling of publicly funded scientists continue," the letter reads.

The authors list a few key examples of "muzzling" by government agencies like Environment Canada, and say the government has continually restricted media access to important research. The coalition of organizations who wrote the letter also used it to announce the launch of a joint campaign to draw attention to this issue and press officials for change.

"Clearly Canadians have the right to learn more about the science they support and to have unfettered access to the expertise of publicly funded scientists," said the letter.

"Prime Minister, we want freedom of speech for federal scientists because we believe it makes for better journalism, for a more informed public, for a healthier democracy, and it makes it more likely that Canadians will reap the maximum benefit from the research they fund."

To read the full text of the open letter, click here.

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