Newspapers Laud Ontario Court of Appeal's Dismissal of Spectator Reporter's Contempt Conviction and Fine



    But CNA Questions Necessity of Endless Battles to Protect Journalistic
    Sources

    TORONTO, March 17 /CNW Telbec/ - The Canadian Newspaper Association (CNA)
applauds the Ontario Court of Appeal for overturning a contempt conviction
against Ken Peters, a reporter for the Hamilton Spectator who refused to
provide information in a libel case that would have led to the disclosure of a
source to whom he had made a promise of confidentiality. Peters' $31,600 fine,
thought to be the largest ever in such a case, was also dismissed in the
judgment released today.
    "While we are obviously very pleased about the result, it's unfortunate
that the battle to protect the principle of confidential sources appears to be
never-ending," said Anne Kothawala, President and CEO of the Canadian
Newspaper Association, which intervened in the appeal.
    "Today the Ontario Court of Appeal has strongly recognized that it is
vital that journalists be able to promise confidentiality to sources - and
that if they can't, stories of wrongdoing won't come to light, and freedom of
the media to gather information will be seriously compromised," Ms. Kothawala
said.
    "Yet despite the lucidity of this and other courts, reporters continue to
be threatened with fines or even jail time if they don't reveal confidential
sources," she said, referring to the pending case of two reporters for the
Montreal French-language daily, La Presse. The reporters were ordered in
January to reveal the source of a secret document in a case involving an
alleged Al-Qaeda suspect and could face imprisonment if they refuse. The
National Post has been fighting several years to protect a source in a case
involving former Prime Minister Jean Chretien.
    "The costs are tremendous. There's the stress and anxiety for journalists
caught in the middle, while the newspapers they work for are forced to pay
tens if not hundreds of thousands of dollars to defend them over and again in
endless court battles. Perhaps it's time we took a serious look at whether
protection of confidential sources needs to be addressed in statute,"
Ms. Kothawala said.
    In Canada, a journalist's right to remain silent is decided in the courts
on a "case by case" basis. However, thirty-three U.S. states and the District
of Columbia have adopted "shield laws" to protect journalistic sources, and
the House of Representatives has passed a similar bill.

    About the Canadian Newspaper Association:

    The Canadian Newspaper Association is the voice of Canada's daily
newspaper industry. We promote the positive reputation of newspapers as an
essential medium that benefits all Canadians, and as an effective vehicle for
advertisers. The CNA is a vigorous champion of journalistic freedom and
democratic reform and is a valued source of industry information, trends and
best practices.




For further information:

For further information: David Gollob, Senior Vice President, Policy and
Communications, 1-800-563-7993, Cell: (613) 301-6162, dgollob@cna-acj.ca;
www.cna-acj.ca

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Canadian Newspaper Association

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