The Royal Canadian Mounted Police asked the public not to post videos or photos relating to this morning’s shooting in Ottawa, Canada, as it was occurring, raising fears that officials were trying to censor news on the shooting near Canada’s Parliament.
Members of the public are asked not to post videos or photos of the on-going incident to ensure safety of first responders and the public
— RCMP National Div (@RCMP_Nat_Div) October 22, 2014
The RCMP made the announcement on Twitter just minutes after at least one shooter killed a soldier at the National War Memorial of Canada, which is mere blocks from government buildings.
Despite claiming the censorship “ensures safety of first responders and the public,” the RCMP’s announcement raises valid concerns that government officials were trying to control the release of news surrounding the shooting to give them an opportunity to bury facts which place officials in a bad light.
The RCMP announcement is nothing short of an attack on the press because media outlets use social media as a source of news, and such censorship only benefits the government while doing little to ensure public safety.
“Twitter is the fastest way to break news now,” Guardian News & Media CEO Andrew Miller said back in 2013. “So core to what we do and core to what we do on a daily basis.”
For example, if it wasn’t for citizen-journalists tweeting the latest developments during the unrest in Ferguson, Mo., back in August, police brutality during the protests would have gone unnoticed.
“In Ferguson, Twitter users were able to see photos and video clips of Al Jazeera’ cameras and other equipment being removed after police fired a tear gas canister towards the news crew (police have since said they were just relocating the media to a safer area), and they were able to see [Washington Post journalist] Wesley Lowery being detained by police, and follow along in real time as he described having his head slammed into a soda machine, and reported how his requests to get the names and badge numbers of the police were repeatedly denied,” Mathew Ingram of Gigaom wrote. “In the absence of any other witnesses to that kind of behavior, Twitter becomes a crucial check on the power of the authorities.”
But what makes the RCMP’s attempt at censorship even more alarming is the fact that the shooting occurred near federal government buildings in the capital of Canada, which may not have been randomly chosen by the suspects.
So far the RCMP and Ottawa Police have provided few details about the incident, despite police investigating other shootings reportedly occurring at Parliament Hill and Rideau Centre, a three-level shopping center.
“Most of downtown Ottawa is in lockdown,” Constable Marc Soucy said, according to USA Today.
It appears the majority of the media’s current knowledge about the shooting stems from first-hand reports on social media, particularly Twitter, which really highlights the danger of the RCMP’s attempt at censorship.