A.J. Niland, CEO of New Orleans, Louisiana-based Huka Entertainment, and publicist Teresa Trovato used the RCMP and other ways to intimidate a senior Canadian journalist and deny access to an event in Canada where a young man died Friday night.
Around the same time that police began probing a suspicious death at the Pemberton Music Festival, organizers asked RCMP officers — hired by them — to arrest this reporter, who was standing on public land outside the festival site, on the false charge of “trespassing”. This reporter cooperated with RCMP officer Diane Blain’s request to walk a few meters away from the festival site’s entrance, on public property alongside Highway 99. I photographed the site from a crosswalk over Highway 99, known as the Sea-to-Sky Highway north of Vancouver.
Hugo Rodrigues, president of the Canadian Association of Journalists, says the CAJ has previously protested against the RCMP acting on requests to arrest or detain law-abiding journalists working in public areas. “The RCMP are publicly accountable for officers’ actions whether on paid duty or regular shift,” he wrote in an email. “We have a strong track record of speaking out whenever public safety officials harass or prevent journalists from doing their jobs.”
The Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms guarantees press freedom in Canadian. This reporter, a graduate of Carleton University’s School of Journalism, has been a full-time journalist since 1984 and covered 8 wars and dozens of festivals worldwide for major media including CNN.com, CTV, the Washington Times and many others.
Organizers claim they gave media passes to 140 people, but they barred this reporter from entering the fenced-off festival site and called me a “threat” to their operations due to my critical, fact-based reporting and refusal to trumpet their lies and groundless claims.
“This private company (Huka) doesn’t like you, probably because you’ve been legitimately critical of its actions and decisions,” says Rodrigues of the CAJ, who called their actions “silly” and “sophomoric”. “You may have a case, if you can prove her actions beyond unattributed allegations, that this PR person was slandering and/or libeling you with other media.”
I phoned Vancouver-based publicist Teresa Trovato on July 3 asking for accreditation ahead of the July 11 deadline. I also did a festival preview story for Globalite Music Magazine published July 3.
Upon her request, I sent a formal letter to apply for accreditation on that same day, and then sent the same letter to the form on the festival’s website on July 7.
Later that day, organizers moved up the deadline from July 11 to July 8. Trovato asked media on Twitter to send in applications.
Yet Trovato and Huka staff falsely claim that this reporter’s application was “too late”, though everything was filed before both July 11 and the new July 8 deadline. They also rejected the formal applications of other veteran reporters, causing suspicion about their motives.
Huka and Trovato claim they’ve accredited 140 media. Many media on site, given photo passes, do not carry professional equipment nor have any history of published photos in major media. Many “media” are not full-time professional reporters, and they didn’t question Huka’s unsubstantiated claims that 75,000 attended the festival. (Photographs indicated about 5000 on site for the weekend.)
This reporter, who had already booked flights and a room in Whistler to cover the event, received no reply by mail or telephone two days before the festival’s opening.
When this reporter in Vancouver called Trovato on Wednesday in a polite and professional manner to ask to speak with CEO A.J. Niland for comments for a story, Trovato threatened to “ruin” my career and reputation in Vancouver, and accused me of being “weird” and “not normal”. She made the same unfounded accusations to another Canadian reporter, and also harassed her in front of colleagues and by text messages.
On Thursday, day one of the festival, this reporter went directly to the Media Check-in area on public property alongside Highway 99 near Pemberton village, about 150 kilometers north of Vancouver. The area is outside the festival grounds. Anybody can go there, whether they have a ticket or not, and many took photos from that area. It is similar to a public area outside any arena or stadium.
Huka CEO A.J. Niland sent a message promising to meet this reporter “man-to-man” to discuss coverage and accreditation. Huka staff from the US repeatedly told this reporter to wait a few more minutes for Niland. This reporter waited five hours in baking heat. Niland did not emerge.
That evening, Trovato accosted this reporter and berated myself and other colleagues standing by a CBC vehicle outside festival grounds alongside Highway 99.
She also sent nasty messages to a Canadian journalist and threatened to ruin her career and hound her around the site throughout the festival.
Both Trovato and Niland told another Canadian reporter that they considered this investigative journalist to be a “threat” to their operations, based on an article questioning their preparations and safety measures and listing a number of fatalities at festivals worldwide.
(please see http://globalitemagazine.com/2014/07/16/7748/)
A similar situation unfolded the next day, Friday. American staff told this reporter to wait. They said they didn’t know the meaning of RCMP or the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. They said it was their first time in Canada.
After waiting a few more hours, this reporter spotted an RCMP cruiser and spent several minutes explaining the situation to RCMP officer Diane Blain.
Huka staff later contacted security and asked the RCMP to remove a journalist from property — outside festival grounds — or else face charges of trespassing.
Blain of the RCMP said Huka’s laywer threatened to have this reporter arrested for trespassing. She explained that organizers hired RCMP officers on a temporary basis to provide security at the festival.
Thus the RCMP were effectively working for the US organizers, calling into question their neutrality and ability to protect Canadian citizens from abuse. Festival organizers from the US often posted messages speaking on behalf of the RCMP.
The RCMP officer, who asked for this reporter’s identification and other details, did not charge this reporter or make any formal requests. Blain instructed this reporter to file a complaint with municipal authorities in Pemberton. Municipal officers could not be reached for comment or assistance.
This reporter never broke the law, never tried to enter the festival site, and was speaking with an RCMP officer in a public space alongside Highway 99 when organizers made false accusations of trespassing. This incident occurred around the same time as a man was found dead in the camping area at the festival site.
Organizers made no announcement to the crowd after the tragic death on Friday night. They have not responded to media requests for comment, and they publish no phone contact information on their website. Their email accounts have not responded to requests for comments.
Several patrons, spending more than $400 for the festival, have complained about how the US-based organizers have treated them.