The treatment of journalists by the police should send shivers down your spine

Earlier this month, Maria Ressa of the Philippines and Dmitri A. Muratov of Russia became the first working journalists to receive the award. Nobel Prize of Peace from german Carl von Ossietzky in 1936.

In their acceptance speeches, Ressa and Muratov highlighted the critical and symbiotic role that a free press plays in the development of a democratic culture based on accountability, transparency and respect for fundamental human rights.

Juxtaposed with the living hope of this non-unrealistic ‘democratic vision’, the two laureates’ remarks also highlighted a much darker and sobering cloud that hangs over the heads of many reporters, editors and photographers. professionals, especially in today’s world. so-called “post-truth” world: by serving the public good, journalists have unwittingly put themselves in the crosshairs.

Don’t you think being a journalist is a dangerous job?

Consider the 2021 statistics recently released by the United States-based Committee to Protect Journalists. In its recent annual report, the non-governmental press freedom organization said 293 journalists around the world were jailed this year, 13 more than the year before. Twenty-four journalists have been killed this year, while 18 others have died in circumstances deemed “too murky to determine whether they were specific targets.”

As international human rights outcasts such as China, Myanmar, Egypt and Russia dominate the list of countries vying for the infamous title of “the world’s most repressive regime”, oceans distant, concerns about press freedom began to surge on the west coast of Canada.

Just a few weeks before Ressa and Muratov sounded the alarm bells over the distress of press freedom in the world in Oslo, two canadian journalists were hobbled, hampered and criminalized simply for doing their job by the RCMP in Wet’suwet’en territory in the northwest central interior of British Columbia.

As you may have already read in National Observer of Canada, journalists Amber Bracken and Michael Toledano were arrested on November 19 for, according to the RCMP, violating the terms of a court injunction by “Embedding” with people who oppose the construction of a contentious gas pipeline. Bracken and Toledano remained in police custody for three days and are due to appear in court, still on February 14th because their false accusations have not yet been abandoned.

their arrests These are not only utter and utter miscarriages of justice, they also represent a watershed moment in the escalation of attacks on press freedom by law enforcement agencies, which have acted like smears under the saddles of journalists for many years. many years.

Far from rhetorical flourish, the recent evidence is overwhelming. Just last summer, for example, photojournalists Ian willms and Chris Young were arrested by the police on several occasions while covering the homeless eviction camps set up in Toronto’s public parks.

Opinion: It’s time for leaders to act to bridge the continental divide between what is said so often about journalism and how journalists are actually treated, writes @Brent_T_Jolly @CAJ. #cdnpoli #PressLiberté #GRC

In Halifax, Global News reporter Alexa MacLean was threatened with arrest while documenting clashes between police and citizens during the dismantling of crisis reception centers. A video She took a photo of officers escorting her colleague, CTV reporter Sarah Plowman, away from law enforcement was shared widely on social media.

And in Fairy Creek in southern Vancouver Island, the Canadian Association of Journalists and a consortium of news organizations, which included National Observer of Canada, won a court challenge that asserted media rights and the vital role journalism plays in a free and democratic society after the RCMP imposed a series of illegal restrictions on the media.

Taken together, these incidents should force all of us as Canadians to consider fundamental questions that strike at the heart of the kind of country we want to live in, now and in the future.

What value should we place, for example, on the transparency of law enforcement agencies about their operational objectives and enforcement practices? Should government agencies be able to avoid liability and operate unsupervised by withholding records from the public? And what freedoms should be given to those who gather information, testify and report events taking place in the public interest?

Canada is a nation of laws and the freedom for journalists to engage in these activities is a legal right enshrined in section 2 (b) of Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. While The politicians rush to platitudes To assert that these rights are essential to democracy, the RCMP and other law enforcement agencies across the country seem to believe that these rights are open matters and subject to negotiation. They are definitely not.

In addition to revising the charter, RCMP leaders should also add a few court rulings to their list of “must read” this holiday season.

At the top of this list should be the Decision 2019 by the Newfoundland and Labrador Court of Appeal in the case involving journalist Justin Brake. In its decision, the court affirmed the protection of journalists against broad injunctions. It also clearly sets out the responsibilities of journalists and how their information-gathering activities are to be organized.

Another element worth considering is the British Columbia Supreme Court Decision spent this summer. Regarding the restrictions imposed on journalists by the RCMP in Fairy Creek, Judge Douglas Thompson stated bluntly that the RCMP’s treatment was incompatible with the rights accorded to journalists in a free and democratic society.

So, rather than pontificating with empty rhetoric, it’s time for leaders to act to bridge the continental divide between what is so often said on journalism and how journalists are actually treated.

It’s an exercise, in fact, where the federal government of Canada can bring some relevant experience to the table. Take, for example, Canada’s participation in the Coalition for Media Freedom or its important pledge of support to UNESCO Global Media Defense Fund.

In view of these commitments, failure to control the apparently uncontrolled powers of law enforcement over journalists is Orwellian double talk.

Indeed, a government that allows journalists’ rights to be undermined while preaching their vital democratic function is guilty of hypocrisy which, frankly, should shock all Canadians.

About Michael C. Lovelace

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