CJFE Condemns Vancouver Police's Abuse of Journalist's Rights



    TORONTO, April 8 /CNW/ - Canadian Journalists for Free Expression (CJFE)
condemns the seizure of a photojournalist's camera by Vancouver police which
we consider to be an infringement of the journalist's free expression rights.
    On Sunday, April 5, Jason Payne, a veteran photojournalist with the
Vancouver Province, came upon a crime scene near his home in Vancouver and
proceeded to take photographs. He states that as a photojournalist with
16-years experience, he was careful not to obstruct the police in the course
of his work. However, when police noticed him taking photographs they demanded
that he turn over his camera. Payne identified himself as a press photographer
and refused; he was then told by the police officer "If you don't give me your
camera we'll arrest you for obstruction of justice."
    Payne contacted his newspaper, seeking legal advice. The paper's lawyer
informed them that police could not confiscate the camera unless they arrested
Payne or had a warrant. Payne reports that the police officer's response was
"I wasn't aware the press had any special privilege under the Charter of
Rights." Payne was handed back the camera about an hour later, after the
police had reviewed the footage.
    "The police practice of obstructing journalists engaged in crime
reporting is disturbingly common in Canada," CJFE Board member and journalist
Kelly Toughill says. She adds "granted, it's not always comfortable having
your work scrutinized, but police wield extraordinary power, and scrutiny by
the media is an important and necessary safeguard." In the case of Jason Payne
for instance, the police had just shot a suspect - a situation which clearly
demands scrutiny and the highest level of transparency.
    In recent years, there have been several instances of journalistic
equipment seized by the police, and in some cases journalists have also been
detained and even arrested. There appears to be at best ignorance, and at
worst, flagrant disregard by the police about the rights of the press to
record and report on incidents involving the police.
    CJFE calls upon the Vancouver police and police departments across the
country to ensure that their officers are given comprehensive training that
sets out the rights of the media. We also expect that police will be held
accountable if they flout these rights. CJFE looks forward to the results of
an internal investigation that the Vancouver police has indicated it will be
holding.

    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
abroad. www.cjfe.org.




For further information:

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


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