TPP Day of Action highlights threat to free expression

2016.09.14

CWA Canada has organized a Day of Action against the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), which poses a particular threat to freedom of expression. An academic forum, a postcard campaign and free Rock Against the TPP concert are set for this Friday in Toronto.

It’s part of a massive campaign against the TPP in North America, led north of the border by CWA Canada, a national union that represents about 6,000 media workers at major news organizations and newspapers across the country.

The TPP is a secret, multinational trade deal between 12 governments throughout the Asia-Pacific region — Australia, Brunei, Canada, Chile, Japan, Malaysia, Mexico, New Zealand, Peru, Singapore, the United States and Vietnam. It was organized by government representatives and hundreds of corporate lobbyists, with little public input from civil society organizations. The TPP text has been written and Canada signed the final version on Feb. 4.

CWA Canada, in partnership with organizations such as Trade Justice Network, is leading efforts to convince the federal government that Parliament shouldn’t ratify it.

Get your FREE TICKETS here to attend Rock Against the TPP

Friday’s Day of Action is intended to inform the public and journalists of the TPP’s detrimental effects and encourage them to oppose the deal. The hash tag #RockAgainstTheTPP is spreading the message on Twitter.

There will be an Academic Forum on the TPP with CWA Canada, the Canadian Environmental Law Association and Doctors Without Borders; a TPP information picket with a postcard campaign to Minister of International Trade Chrystia Freeland; and a free anti-TPP concert with Anti-Flag, Rebel Diaz, other artists and actor Evangeline Lilly.

Were Canada to ratify the deal, the TPP would threaten freedom of expression, a cornerstone of our democracy. The vague text in Article 18.78 of the Intellectual Property section on “Trade Secrets” could allow signatories to criminalize journalists and whistleblowers.

According to the text, “each Party shall provide for criminal procedures and penalties for one or more of the following:

(a) the unauthorised and wilful access to a trade secret held in a computer system;

(b) the unauthorised and wilful misappropriation of a trade secret, including by means of a computer system; or

(c) the fraudulent disclosure, or alternatively, the unauthorised and wilful disclosure, of a trade secret, including by means of a computer system.”

This article directly targets whistleblower organizations such as WikiLeaks, which publishes secret documents and news leaks that expose government and corporate misconduct. WikiLeaks disclosed parts of the TPP deal before they were made public on Nov. 5, 2015.

The TPP would also damage the economy. It would drive down pay rates, threaten the existence of many well-paid jobs and make it easier for companies to move production to low-wage countries such as Vietnam, where some workers earn only 65 cents an hour. North American media companies could increasingly outsource their operations to content farms in Asia where workers earn these lower wages.

Additionally, the TPP would expand copyright terms. It would extend the copyright term from the life of an author plus 50 years to “not less than the life of the author and 70 years after the author’s death.” These expanded terms could limit artistic creativity for the general public and allow media corporations to control and profit from works for a longer period of time.

The deal could also usher in stricter rules on fair use. Fair use restrictions would make it harder for journalists to quote copyrighted sources in news articles, which is commonplace in journalism and helps to foster a well-informed citizenry.

TPP negotiations started in 2002 for what was called the Trans-Pacific Strategic Economic Partnership Agreement. Canada joined TPP negotiations in 2012. It is the most significant trade pact Canada has negotiated since the North American Free Trade Agreement came into force in 1994.

Errol Salamon is a CWA Canada Associate Member and the work and labour editor of J-Source. He’s also co-editor and contributor to the forthcoming book Journalism in Crisis: Bridging Theory and Practice for Democratic Media Strategies in Canada (University of Toronto Press). You can find him on Twitter @errolouvrier.

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