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Tory MP apologizes for wanting to jail journalists 

[PoliticsWatch Updated 1:10 p.m. March 31, 2006]

OTTAWA  — A Conservative MP who argued in favour of  jailing journalists to better guarantee accuracy in reporting in an opinion piece sent to nine B.C. newspapers has apologized just a day after floating the idea. 

Tory MP Colin Mayes, a rookie B.C. MP, sent out a retraction to the Parliamentary Press Gallery and local media on Friday afternoon. 

"I wish to retract without reservation the comments I made in a release sent out earlier this week," he wrote. 

"I would like to make it very clear that I fully respect the freedom of the press. I regret my choice of words and the message that they conveyed."

"I sincerely apologize for any disrespect or ill feelings that my comments may have caused."

On Thursday, Mayes' office sent out a short opinion piece to nine B.C. newspapers in which he defended Prime Minister Stephen Harper's recent decision to restrict media access on Parliament Hill. 

PoliticsWatch.com has obtained and published a copy of that article. 

> Read Colin Mayes' controversial column 

The well reported battle between the PMO and the Parliamentary Press Gallery escalated earlier this week when Harper held a secret cabinet meeting on Parliament Hill in order to avoid House rules that would have allowed reporters to stake out the area outside the cabinet room. 

On Harper's decision to hold secret cabinet meetings, Mayes wrote: "What the Prime Minister has done is to inform the media that when he has something to say he will say it. 

"The media has blatantly painted a picture that our government is not open and transparent."

After arguing that journalists were twisting the coverage of Harper's battle with the media, Mayes suggested: "Boy, would the public get accurate and true information if a few reporters were hauled away to jail! Maybe it is time that we hauled off in handcuffs reporters that fabricate stories, or twist information and even falsely accuse citizens. 

"We know this will never happen because the media would cry 'censorship', 'authoritarian state', and all would be aghast, but the truth is we need ethical leadership from the media too!"

In his retraction, Mayes singles out plans to have a constructive working relationship with "local media," but does not mention the Press Gallery. 

Mayes, a former municipal leader, was elected in January after earning the Conservative nomination in the riding once held by veteran conservative MP Darrel Stinson. 

In a biography on his Web site, Mayes lists "visionary, empowering others" and "discernment" among his "gifts."

Recently the Globe and Mail reported that an internal government document outlining the Conservative government's communication strategy said the "PMO will have final approval for all communications products -- even Notes to Editors or Letters to the Editor."

That raises questions about whether Mayes had the approval of the PMO in sending out this column? Was he acting on his own? Or did the approval only apply to cabinet ministers?

: Related Links

> Read Colin Mayes' controversial column 

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