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Press gallery dozing on missing email scandal: Oberfeld

VANCOUVER - An award-winning former news reporter for BCTV has issued a blistering criticism of his former Legislative press gallery colleagues over their coverage – or non-coverage – of the Campbell government’s erasing of emails that might have shed light on the Railgate scandal.

The missing e-mails is obviously a huge story, writes Harvey Oberfeld in a post to his blog today.

“Thousands of government e-mails involving the premier, cabinet ministers and high-ranking staff members between 2001 and 2005 have [been] destroyed, seemingly contrary to both  the law and accepted practices that legal documents should be preserved for seven years.

“The media covered the initial story … and then .. NOTHING . . . I think the media are abandoning their responsibility.”

He offers a set of questions that reporters should be trying to track down.

* Prior to these particular erasures, what exactly was the policy AND PRACTICE in effect for keeping/destroying such e-mails?

* On whose specific instructions were the 2001-2005 e-mails destroyed?

* WHEN were those instructions delivered?

* Were ANY e-mails ordered specifically destroyed AFTER the police raid on the Legislature in Dec. 2003?  By who?

* Did ANYONE in the public service object to the destruction of the e-mails or recommend they be preserved? Who? And if so, who over-ruled them?

* Did the Premier or members of his staff discuss with anyone destroying the e-mails BEFORE the dirty deed was done?  With who?

On a day when the Vancouver Sun’s web site has published 18 stories about the death of Michael Jackson, Oberfeld urges reporters to pursue the case of the missing emails. “Keep the story alive. The public DOES have a right to know EXACTLY what happened here ... and who made the key decisions to destroy the information.”

He frets: “Frankly I think too many of my old friends at the Legislative Press Gallery have been there too long.  Little really excites them anymore. Too many of the people they cover have become almost ‘friends’.”

The Tyee, and its political news blog The Hook, has published dozens of stories about the Basi-Virk trial and Railgate scandal, most of them by Bill Tieleman, who also blogs about the case here.

David Beers is editor of The Tyee.

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