CAJ welcomes ruling that reverses contempt finding for protecting source



    OTTAWA, March 17 /CNW/ - An Ontario appeal court decision to overturn a
contempt of court ruling and fine of more than $30,000 against a newspaper
reporter for refusing to reveal a confidential source is a positive step
toward protecting the public's right to know, the Canadian Association of
Journalists says.
    "We applaud the court's recognition of the fact that journalists
protecting their sources are doing so in the public interest," said CAJ
president Mary Agnes Welch. "But Canada needs a shield law so other
journalists like Ken Peters don't endure the hardship of being held in
contempt for exercising their ethical obligations in seeking out truth."
    Hamilton Spectator reporter Ken Peters' refusal in 2004 to obey a
judicial order to name a source arose "out of a bona fide conviction that his
promise of confidentiality and the ethics of his profession required him to
take that position," according to a unanimous ruling by the Ontario Court of
Appeal.
    "There was no justification for the imposition of a substantial penalty
and the appellant should not have been ordered to pay over $30,000 in costs,"
Justice Robert J. Sharpe wrote in the ruling agreed to by fellow Justices
E.A. Cronk and E.E. Gillese.
    The CAJ intervened in the St. Elizabeth Home Society's 2004 lawsuit
against the City of Hamilton and others after Peters was cited for contempt
for protecting a source in his reportage on health and safety issues at the
senior citizens' home.
    "Unless and until whistleblowers can come forward without fear of
retribution, the potential threat to their financial and even physical
well-being will continue to have a chilling effect on them," Welch said. "A
law that shields the journalist-source relationship would help ensure that
information in the public interest comes to light."

    The Canadian Association of Journalists is a professional organization
with some 1,500 members across Canada. The CAJ's primary role is to provide
public-interest advocacy and high quality professional development for its
members.





For further information:

For further information: Mary Agnes Welch, president, CAJ, (204)
943-6575; John Dickins, executive director, CAJ, (613) 526-8061, www.caj.ca


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