OTTAWA, June 7 /CNW/ - The Canadian Association of Journalists welcomes
an Alberta judge's ruling striking down blanket publication bans on bail
Alberta Court of Queen's Bench Justice C.S. Brooker on Tuesday struck
down a law preventing the media from reporting on bail hearings of those
accused of crimes. He suspended his ruling for a year, to give Ottawa enough
time to fashion a new law. The onus would be on the accused to show why such
hearings should not be publicized.
"We couldn't agree more with Judge Brooker's ruling," said CAJ president
Paul Schneidereit. "A blanket prohibition on reporting bail hearings leaves no
room for nuance, no allowance that, very often, it is very much in the public
interest that the details of bail proceedings be publicized."
In his decision handed down in Edmonton on a local case, Judge Brooker
defended the importance of freedom of the press. "The media, albeit a private
and often for-profit enterprise, is the public's eyes and ears to the formal
justice system," the judge said. "The public depends upon the media for
information about the court process."
As media lawyers arguing the case noted, the notion that potential jurors
can't be trusted to make fair, impartial decisions based on the evidence
presented at trial - because of something reported at a bail hearing - is
"Judge Brooker's decision is a victory for common sense," said
Schneidereit. "We hope the ruling will be recognized as such, and emulated, by
jurisdictions across this country."
The decision came in the much-publicized case of Michael James White,
found guilty of second-degree murder last December for killing his pregnant
wife in 2005.
The Canadian Association of Journalists is a professional organization
with some 1,400 members across Canada. The CAJ's primary role is to provide
public-interest advocacy and quality professional development for its members.
For further information:
For further information: Paul Schneidereit, CAJ president, (902)
426-2811 (ext: 1124); John Dickins, CAJ executive director, (613) 526-8061,
Cell phone (613) 868-5442