TORONTO, June 19 /CNW/ - Canadian Journalists for Free Expression (CJFE)
is concerned at the court decision allowing police to use photographs
belonging to The Hamilton Spectator. Officers executed a search warrant on
May 6, 2008, in order to obtain photos of a highway blockade in Caledonia.
Brian Rogers, representing The Hamilton Spectator, was in court on June 12 to
fight the issuing of the warrant, but his objections were dismissed.
The blockade occurred on April 26, 2008, and was organized to protest the
arrest of a native demonstrator near Napanee, who had been protesting a land
claims dispute. Hamilton Spectator journalists covering the blockade took
photographs of all those involved. Police are investigating the blockade as an
act of mischief, and wish to examine the photos in order to identify the
OPP forensic identification officers are also looking to produce
individual images of an unidentified native man that confronted police during
the blockade. They seek to charge him with two counts of assault with a weapon
and four counts of threatening bodily harm.
"It is not the job of journalists to collect information for the police,"
stated Arnold Amber, CJFE President. "Making them agents of the police blurs
the line between the journalists' role to objectively observe and record, and
that of the police." CJFE fears that this blurring of roles could lead to
public apprehension and suspicion of journalists as being extensions of law
Superior Court Justice James Ramsay rejected The Hamilton Spectator's bid
to withhold the photographs. Brian Rogers argued against the issuing of the
warrant and the use of journalists as a source of evidence. Ramsay rejected
these claims, stating that there was no indication the paper would suffer as a
result of the images being turned over to the OPP.
CJFE notes that this is certainly not the first time police have
attempted to use Canadian journalists as a source of evidence in police
investigations. In 2006, Hamilton Spectator reporter Bill Dunphy was
successful in his bid to keep his notes from interviews with drug dealer Paul
Gravelle out of the hands of police. A Criminal Code provision enacted on
September 15, 2004, allows a judge to compel a person to produce documents or
data relevant to the commission of an offence. Failure to comply is punishable
by a fine of up to $250,000 and/or up to six months in jail. In Dunphy's case,
Justice C.S. Glithero recognized "the potential harmful effects of the search
of the media," as well as journalism's "vital role in the functioning of a
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. For more information,
contact Julie Payne at (416) 515-9622.
For further information:
For further information: Julie Payne, CJFE Manager, Tel (416) 515-9622
x.226, Fax (416) 515-7879, website: www.cjfe.org; To get more information
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