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Alberta government admits mistake after barring journalists

Ezra Levant, a former Sun media columnist, started The Rebel with some former colleagues about a year ago. The site has been sharply critical of Rachel Notley’s NDP government.

Pawel Dwulit/THE CANADIAN PRESS

The Alberta government says it made a mistake and no reporters will be excluded from government news events while a review of the province's media policies is done.

"We've heard a lot of feedback from Albertans and media over the course of the last two days and it's clear we made a mistake," said a statement to the legislature press gallery on Wednesday.

The statement from Cheryl Oates, the premier's communications director, came a day after a battle with an online news outlet became public over access to the legislature.

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Contributors to a highly conservative website founded by political commentator Ezra Levant have said that they were barred from two government news conferences earlier this month.

The statement said the government will wait for the review to be completed before making any decisions. It has asked Heather Boyd, recently retired Western Canada bureau chief for The Canadian Press, to come up with recommendations on media accreditation. She is expected to report back in two to three weeks.

"In the meantime, no one will be excluded from government media events," the statement said.

Premier Rachel Notley was to appear at a photo op in Calgary on Wednesday with a cabinet minister who had a baby a few days ago, but the event was cancelled.

Sheila Gunn Reid and Holly Nicholas have said the premier's staff denied them access to an oil royalties news conference in Calgary two weeks ago because they were with The Rebel website.

Three days later, Reid tried to enter the legislature to cover a joint news conference with Premier Rachel Notley and Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.

Reid said security staff denied her entrance because the premier's office had directed that The Rebel was on a "no-go" list.

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Oates said Tuesday that the pair had not signed up ahead of time for the royalty review news conference – as required from all media – and therefore couldn't attend.

As for the Trudeau visit, the legislature was under tight security and only mainstream media organizations and accredited legislature press gallery members were allowed, she said.

She also said the premier's office does not have a no-go list.

Levant, a former Sun media columnist, started The Rebel with some former colleagues about a year ago. The site has been sharply critical of Notley's NDP government.

Darcy Henton, president of the legislature press gallery, said Tuesday that it "supports the right of journalists to provide vigorous and diverse coverage of the Alberta legislature."

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