CAJ and Press Freedom Coalition Win Court Challenge Against RCMP Media Restrictions in Fairy Creek
NANAIMO, BC, July 20, 2021 / CNW / – Today’s BC Supreme Court decision granting an application to vary an injunction, brought by the Canadian Association of Journalists, in partnership with a coalition of news organizations and press freedom groups, is a resounding assertion of media rights and the vital role journalism plays in defending the public interest.
The press coalition had asked the court to add a clause to the injunction order granted to logging company Teal Jones in April, ordering the RCMP not to interfere with access to the media in the absence of ‘a serious operational reason to do so.
In his decision, judge thompson agreed with the press coalition, saying: “I am not convinced that the geographically large exclusion zones and associated access control points have been justified as being reasonably necessary to give the police the space they she needs.
He continued, “I am exercising my discretion to make the order requested by the media consortium, on the grounds that by making operational decisions and exercising its discretion regarding the removal and arrest of persons violating the order, the RCMP will be reminded by the presence of this additional language to keep in mind the special role of the media in a free and democratic society, and the need to avoid any undue and unnecessary interference in the journalistic function.
“It is, without a doubt, a turning point in the history of the defense of press freedom in Canada,” said Brent Jolly, President of the Canadian Association of Journalists.
“The RCMP have now been told by two different courts, as well as their own watchdog, that their treatment of journalists is unacceptable in a free and democratic society. We hope that this latest defeat will prompt the RCMP to reconsider its approach. in terms of allowing journalists to do their jobs.
Lawyers representing the RCMP and Teal Jones both opposed the press coalition’s request. The RCMP argued that media access was adequate. Teal jones argued the press coalition had no standing to intervene in the injunction proceedings.
Affidavits submitted by journalists as part of the proceedings painted a picture of arbitrary and unreasonable restrictions on access that at times saw media outlets completely excluded from the area. When they had access to them, they were chaperoned at all times, parked in enclosures often far from the action and threatened with arrest if they moved.
Today’s victory for our coalition in the BC Supreme Court does not force the RCMP to immediately change its practices, although it does require them to reconsider them. The CAJ and its press coalition partners, however, hope that future injunctions will contain similar language that explicitly allows journalists free access to sites where events of public interest take place.
“The efforts of our coalition expressly show that journalists from Canada will not allow their rights to freedom of expression to be violated by law enforcement, ”Jolly said.
“This decision is the sound of a worrying wake-up call to all law enforcement agencies across the country. We hope the days of hindering, restricting or interfering with journalists are, now in the rearview mirror. “
“This problem, of the RCMP using large exclusion zones to exclude journalists and restrict media access, has long been a thorn in the side of the media,” said Ethan cox, editor at Ricochet Media.
“In Wet’suwet’en last year, several journalists were illegally detained by the RCMP and the force was condemned by most of the major international press freedom groups, yet they employed the same tactics this year at Fairy Creek.
The CAJ and members of the Press Coalition look forward to working with the RCMP, as equal parties, to establish appropriate media policies that allow free flow of information to the public, especially during the execution judicial injunctions.
Today’s successful lawsuit was initiated by a coalition of news groups that includes the Canadian Association of Journalists, Ricochet Media, Capital Daily Victoria, The Narwhal, from Canada National Observer, APTN News, The Discourse, Indiginews and Canadian Journalists for Free Expression.
The request was also supported by the Committee to Protect Journalists, the Society of Environmental Journalists and the Coalition for Women in Journalism.
The judge’s written reasons will be posted online within 30 days. The coalition will release them once they are publicly available.
The coalition will hold a press conference to answer media questions on the case this afternoon at 3 p.m. ET/noon pacific time. To join the conference, please click here.
The CAJ is from Canada largest national professional organization for journalists of all media, representing over 1000 members across the country. The primary roles of the CAJ are to provide high quality professional development to its members and to advocate for the public interest.
SOURCE Canadian Association of Journalists
For further information: or interviews: Brent Jolly, President, Canadian Association of Journalists (on behalf of the coalition), (289) 387-3179; Ethan Cox, Editor, Ricochet Media, (514) 662-0070