OTTAWA, March 21, 2019 /CNW/ - The Canadian Association of Journalists is encouraged to learn that charges have been laid against a Hamilton police officer who arrested two photojournalists, Jeremy Cohn and freelancer Dave Ritchie.
The arrests occurred at the scene of a fatal Waterdown crash where a young girl had died, in May 2017. Const. Jeff Todoruck seized a camera belonging to freelancer David Ritchie, cuffed him and put him in the back of a cruiser. Global's Jeremy Cohn called a police media relations officer to express concern about the arrest, and that's when Const. Todoruck turned on Cohn and arrested him. Cohn's camera was rolling and captured audio of the events. Andrew Collins, another freelance journalist captured a second video which shows Const. Todoruck pushing Cohn to the ground, kneeing Cohn in the back, zip-tying his hands and roughly moving Cohn toward a police vehicle. No charges were ever laid against Cohn. Charges of obstructing police and resisting arrest laid against Ritchie were later dropped after he reached an agreement with the Crown to do 10 hours of community services and donate $250.
"The video is appalling and frightening. Obviously no citizen should have their rights violated by a police officer. This scenario was made worse because the person forced to the ground, kneed in the back and zip-tied was a media worker, who had done absolutely nothing wrong, and was trying to help someone," said CAJ President Karyn Pugliese, who acknowledged that the specific charges pending against Const. Todoruck have not yet been proven in court. "Jeremy Cohn and Andrew Collins each deserve praise for their courage in helping a fellow journalist. It is also very heartening to see Global Media stand by their staff and championing press freedom."
The charges laid today stem from a complaint by Global Media to the Office of the Independent Police Review Director. Todoruck faces five acts of misconduct, including two counts of discreditable conduct, two counts of neglect of duty, and unlawful or unnecessary exercise of authority.
Pugliese noted that there have been other troubling cases where police have worked to restrict access of journalists including: when RCMP blocked journalists from the Gidimt'en checkpoint in northern B.C. last January, making it nearly impossible for media to cover police dealings with protesters; John and Brett Hueston of the Alymer Gazette who were wrongfully arrested by the OPP when they tried to report on a traffic accident in 2017; and reporter Justin Brake who was charged criminally and civilly after he followed protestors into the Muskrat Falls hydroelectric project in October of 2016. At the time, Brake worked for theindependent.ca, he now works for APTN.
"There is a concerning pattern of police agencies interfering with journalists and our ability to get information to the public. We can hope that this unfortunate incident can lead to a happy ending if it teaches police to better respect our charter rights and freedoms," said Pugliese.
The Canadian Association of Journalists is a professional organization with more than 700 members across Canada. The CAJ's primary roles are public-interest advocacy work and professional development for its members.
SOURCE Canadian Association of Journalists
For further information: Karyn Pugliese, CAJ president, [email protected], 204-995-1071