Prime Minister Stephen Harper urged journalists to “shine light into dark corners” of government affairs during a speech late Saturday, but wouldn’t take questions from reporters covering the event.

Harper, who is known for his sometimes prickly relationship with parliamentary reporters, made the comments during an ethnic media awards dinner in Markham.

Freedom for Canadians goes hand-in-hand with journalistic freedom, he told the dinner guests gathered at Seneca College.

Members of the ethnic press and their readers understand what it’s like in countries where “truth is only what the state says it is” and journalists are co-opted as government mouthpieces or threatened with their lives, Harper said.

The prime minister’s staff said before the event, which was open to the media, that Harper would not be taking questions from reporters covering the event.