A democratic society and its institutions depend largely on three sustaining pillars to exist and evolve: The rule of law, independent elections and freedom of the media. When one of the pillars abrogates its role, it does so at incalculable great risks.
Since the mid-December kidnappings of Canadian diplomats Robert Fowler and Louis Guay in Niger, I have bemoaned,lamented, decried the Canadian media's timidity to pursue this story with gusto and thoroughness. Instead, Canada's news organizations appeared ready with each development to accept without question the government's directive; an age old protocol to keep quiet and mind it's own business. Back during the two Great Wars it was called: "Loose lips sink ships!"
Since Ambassadors Guay and Fowler obtained their freedom a few days back we now know for instance that they were abducted by Tuareg gunman near Niger's capital, and subsequently traded to the Algerian based Al-Quaida in Islamic Maghreb in nearby Mali. Their value as hostages was clearly understood: They were after all driving in a chauffeur driven official United-Nations vehicle when kidnapped. That day they had visited a Canadian operated Uranium Mine. A key demand of the Tuareg rebels is to receive a fair share of the country's uranium mining royalties which account for two-thirds of Niger's exports. A handful of Canadian companies own about half of Niger's mining permits valued as much as $12-billion.
As Canada's media abandoned the elementary role of getting to the details of this sordid affair over the last five months, it was a handful of Internet bloggers in New York, Montreal and Ottawa, as well as Agence France-Presse operatives in Africa who both kept the story alive, and continued digging for information. For instance this "blog" was first to link the Fowler and Guay ordeal to Al-Quaida In Islamic Maghreb in the second week of January. (See: "Month #2 - Shame On Us" January 14/09)
The Canadian Government soon concluded the lack of competence of the United-Nations and especially the Secretary-General, Ban Ki Moon, to deal with this matter. The Prime Minister's office here in Ottawa subsequently grabbed the investigative lead. Research from a New York based "blogger" revealed that Ambassador Fowler had been appointed to his confidential mission last July by the U.N. Secretary-General, and his mandate funded surreptitiously by money buried in a regular office allocation to Ban Ki Moon in October 2008.
The two Canadian diplomats are now free, they show few physical signs of their almost five months of captivity. This weekend they are being reunited with their families in Europe before returning home. Canada's news media has been anxious and quick to jump-in in celebrating the fortunate happy ending of this nasty chapter. One is given to wonder though just where the media was...or exactly what it was doing as this affair evolved since last December 14th.
Canadians have become accustomed and wise to the obfuscation, the "flim / flam" from our elected officials and politicians. I wish sincerely and hope deeply that our economically battered news organizations don't follow down that same slippery path.