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Wheat board bans freelancer

Freelance reporter and commentator Harry Siemens was excluded from two Canadian Wheat Board (CWB) news conferences because of his rude behaviour, not because he’s a wheat board critic, says Louise Waldman, the CWB’s manager of media relations and advertising.

“He has used news conferences in the past to air his own personal opinion as opposed to asking questions, which is quite disruptive, but there is also the general rudeness to staff. So I don’t find his behaviour acceptable,” Waldman said in an interview Oct. 31.

Waldman said the board does not pick and choose the journalists it will deal with based on their views. But she said media personnel who are disruptive or who are likely to interfere with the efforts of others attending the event have been turned away in the past.

“I really do draw the line at peoples’ behaviour and I think as an organization we have every right to exclude people whose behaviour is not professional.”

Waldman said Siemens can attend future CWB events if he agrees to be professional. He can ask tough questions, Waldman said, but not disrespect CWB staff. She described his past conduct as “borderline abusive.”

Siemens declined to comment on Waldman’s remarks when contacted last week because he had not heard them from her directly.

“I have never conducted myself unprofessionally, other than ask the hard questions, at any of their news conferences,” Siemens said. “And I’ve done it longer than any one of those girls (working in CWB communications) have been there, since 1971.”

Siemens said he was informed via e-mail earlier this year only “accredited” media would be allowed to a tend the CWB’s crop yearend news conference. Siemens, who lives and works in Winkler, said he sent a return e-mail listing the media outlets to which he supplies stories and commentary. But he received no response.

When he tried to register for another CWB event, Siemens said he was told in an e-mail the CWB reserves the right to exclude individuals or groups from its events.

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About the author

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Allan Dawson

Allan Dawson is a reporter with the Manitoba Co-operator based near Miami, Man. Covering agriculture since 1980, Dawson has spent most of his career with the Co-operator except for several years with Farmers’ Independent Weekly and before that a Morden-Winkler area radio station.

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