CJFE Calls on Minister to Forbid Police Officers to Impersonate Journalists



    TORONTO, July 28 /CNW/ - Canadian Journalists for Free Expression (CJFE)
has called on Rick Bartolucci, the Ontario Minister of Community Safety and
Correctional Services to direct the Ontario Provincial Police (OPP) to stop
impersonating reporters.
    After a publication ban was recently lifted, CJFE learned that OPP
constable Steve Martell had pretended to be a journalist at a Mohawk rally
held in conjunction with the Aboriginal Day of Protest in 2007. While
testifying at the preliminary hearing of Mohawk protestor Shawn Brant, Martell
said that there are no guidelines for undercover officers as to what roles
they can or cannot play when they are undercover.
    This practice of impersonating journalists concerns CJFE for two reasons.
First, this tactic compromises the media's position as an independent third
party, thereby threatening reporters' safety and their ability to gain access
to stories and sources.
    Second, we believe that when police - city, provincial or the RCMP -
pretend they are journalists they undermine a free press in Canada. For
journalists to fulfill their basic role in a democracy to present, evaluate
and investigate issues of public interest, they must be free of as many
encumbrances as possible. Creating conditions where members of the public, or
those who may be involved in a dispute with the government, are not able to
trust that people who have identified themselves as journalists are not
actually undercover police officers, is an infringement of everybody's right
to a free press.
    In his letter to the Ontario Minister of Community Safety and
Correctional Services, CJFE President Arnold Amber stated, "Surely, there are
enough police resources and proven investigative procedures available that
misrepresentation and underhanded tactics such as these do not have to be
used."
    CJFE has called on Rick Bartolucci, as the Minister responsible for the
OPP, to step in and direct the force to never again impersonate journalists.

    Canadian Journalists for Free Expression (CJFE) is an association of more
than 300 journalists, editors, publishers, producers, students and others who
work to promote and defend free expression and press freedom in Canada and
around the world. CJFE has a history of work on cases pertaining to media law
and freedom of expression.





For further information:

For further information: CJFE Manager, Julie Payne at (416) 515-9622 x.
226


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