Law enforcement’s treatment of journalists should send chills down everyone’s spine

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

In your acceptance speeches, Crowd Y Muratov He highlighted the critical and symbiotic role that a free press plays in fostering a democratic culture based on accountability, transparency, and respect for basic human rights.

However, contrary to the vivid hope of this unrealistic “democratic vision”, the comments of both laureates also shed light on a much darker and more sobering cloud that hangs over the heads of many professional reporters, editors and photographers, especially nowadays. the so-called world of “post-truth”: that by serving the public good, journalists have unconsciously put themselves in the line of fire.

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

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

While international human rights pariahs 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 away, press freedom concerns have started to reach the west coast of Canada.

Just weeks before Ressa and Muratov sounded the alarms about the mess of world press freedom in Oslo, two Canadian journalists they were obstructed, interfered with and criminalized simply for doing their job by the RCMP in the Wet’suwet’en Territory in the northwestern-central interior of British Columbia.

As you 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 order issued by “Incrustation” with people who oppose the construction of a controversial gas pipeline. Both Bracken and Toledano remained in police custody for three days and must appear in court, again on February 14th how have your wrong charges done not dropped yet.

Your arrests They are not only complete and utter errors of justice, but also represent a touchstone in the escalation of attacks on press freedom by law enforcement agencies, which have acted like burrs under journalists’ chairs for many years.

Far from being a rhetorical flourish, the recent evidence is overwhelming. Just this past summer, for example, photojournalists Ian Willms Y Chris Young They were detained by law enforcement agencies on different occasions while covering the homeless eviction of campgrounds set up in public parks in Toronto.

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

In Halifax, Global News reporter Alexa MacLean was threatened with arrest when documenting clashes between police and citizens during the dismantling of emergency shelters. TO video The photo of officers escorting his colleague, CTV reporter Sarah Plowman, away from law enforcement, was widely shared on social media.

And in Fairy Creek, in the south of Vancouver Island, the Canadian Association of Journalists and a consortium of news organizations, that included National Observer of Canada, won a judicial challenge that affirmed the rights of the media and the vital role that 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 compel all of us, as Canadians, to consider fundamental issues that touch the heart of the kind of country we want to live in, both now and in the future.

What value should we place, for example, on law enforcement agencies being transparent about their operational objectives and enforcement practices? Should government agencies avoid accountability and operate unsupervised by retaining records from the public? And what freedoms should be given to those who collect information, give testimony and report on events that take place in the public interest?

Canada is a nation of laws and the freedom of journalists to engage in these activities is a legal right enshrined in Section 2 (b) of Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. While politicians hurry up to Common places In asserting these rights as essential to democracy, the RCMP and other police forces across the country appear to believe that these rights are open issues subject to negotiation. They definitely are not.

In addition to reviewing the bylaws, RCMP chiefs should also add some court decisions to their “must-read” list this holiday season.

At the top of that list should be the 2019 decision by the Newfoundland and Labrador Court of Appeals in the case of journalist Justin Brake. In its decision, the court affirmed the protection of journalists from broad court mandates. It also clearly set out the responsibilities of journalists and how their news gathering activities should be accommodated.

Another worth checking out is the BC Supreme Court Decision broadcast this summer. Regarding the press 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 granted to journalists in a free and democratic society.

So instead of pontificating with empty rhetoric, it is time for leaders to take action to bridge the continental gap between what is so often said. about journalism and how journalists are actually treated.

In fact, it is an exercise in which the federal government of Canada can contribute some relevant experience. Take, for example, Canada’s participation in the Coalition for Media Freedom or your important commitment to support the Global Media Defense Fund.

Given these commitments, failing to control the seemingly limitless powers of law enforcement toward journalists smacks of Orwellian doublespeak.

In fact, a government that allows the journalists’ rights being undermined while preaching their vital democratic role is guilty of a hypocrisy that, frankly, should send a chill down the collective spine of all Canadians.

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