Canadian conservative commentator and climate science denialist Ezra Levant has won his battle with the United Nations to have staff from his media outlet accredited to cover climate talks starting next week in Morocco.
Three staffers from Levant’s online outlet, The Rebel, were initially denied media accreditation for the COP22 talks in Marrakesh, after the UN described Rebel as “advocacy media”. The Financial Post is reporting that the UN has granted Rebel two spots, but Rebel is pushing back for a third.
Since hearing from the UN in early October, Levant has been campaigning furiously to force the UN to change its mind. He gained support from three journalism groups, gathered 10,000 names on a petition and won the backing of Canada's environment minister, Catherine McKenna.
Levant even travelled to New York to hand the petition to Canada’s permanent mission to the United Nations.
But along the way, Levant has repeatedly shown footage from the last major climate change talks in Paris to bolster his case. Levant says the footage shows journalists in the Paris media room “jumping for joy”. This, according to Levant, shows their lack of objectivity and just why his "real journalists" should be allowed inside the COP22 talks as media.
But DeSmog has investigated the origins of the clip and can confirm that the footage does not show journalists and was not filmed in “the media room”, as Levant has repeatedly claimed.
The clip was originally filmed and shared on Twitter by a passing journalist — Miranda Johnson, of The Economist — who has confirmed Rebel did not seek permission to use her footage and, if it had, it would have been refused.
— Miranda Johnson (@MSLJeconomist) December 12, 2015
Instead, the clip shows a side room, well away from the media centre, where civil society groups who had campaigned for action on climate change for years had gathered to watch the final moments of the Paris talks.
Levant has told viewers: “Here’s a clip from the UN global warming convention last year showing journalists in the press room cheering.”
In another Rebel video, Levant says: “The most striking video clip of the entire Paris conference last year was when an international agreement was finally announced and the media room burst into applause and cheering. Some actually jumping for joy – you know, the way objective reporters do.”
DeSmog can also confirm the person seen “jumping for joy” was not a journalist either, but a media liaison officer for a climate action group.
Other media outlets have asked for permission to use Johnson's footage, including US outlet Fox News, but all have been refused.
Levant has used the footage at least five times in at least four different videos posted on YouTube and his Rebel media website. Each time, Levant says it shows journalists in the media room.
In a segment with one of his formerly “banned” staff members, Sheila Gunn Reid, Levant says the UN is “terrified that we will turn the camera on the UN approved journalists… the pets.”
He adds: “We can’t show this enough. I want to show the clip of the official approved accredited journalists, who are more objective than you Sheila, jumping for joy at some climate announcement…. That’s the media filing room. That’s the press room. Every person in that room was a journalist that met [the UN officer] Nick Nuttall’s standards.”
As well as using the footage to gain support from the public, Levant also uses the clip to support a crowdfunding campaign to send Rebel staff to cover a different UN conference in India later this month. In that video, Levant again describes the “reporters” in the footage as “squealing like teenagers at a Justin Bieber concert.”
DeSmog has approached Levant for comment.
Rebel writes: "One thing we won’t scrimp on is security, though — especially in a place like Morocco. So we need a driver/handler to make sure we get to and from the conference site each day safely." This, despite visitors to COP22 having access to official shuttle buses running 12 routes, each route covered from 6am until midnight and, in peak hours, running every 15 minutes.
Levant is trying to raise more than CA$27,000 for the India trip, including $14,000 to hire a private security firm. And The Rebel is crowdfunding for Morocco as well.
DeSmog has reported that Rebel’s intentions in Morocco were not to mainly report on the proceedings, but instead to film journalists.
Levant told an audience that Rebel had joined with climate science denier Marc Morano, of the US-based Committee for a Constructive Tomorrow (CFACT), who Levant appointed an “honorary Rebel” at the talks.
CFACT, which has received funding from fossil fuel interests, has been accredited as a non-governmental organisation at several UN climate summits.
According to a CFACT Facebook post, “Rebel wanted to join CFACT at the UN climate conference in Marrakech."
One of the three Rebel staff members heading to Morocco, Sheila Gunn Reid, told an Edmonton audience in September 2016 that “people who believe in global warming really seem like a doomsday cult.”