CAJ intervenes in publication ban case

OTTAWA, Nov. 16 /CNW/ - The Canadian Association of Journalists asked the Supreme Court of Canada today to strike down mandatory publication bans on bail hearings.

The Toronto Star, along with the CBC, the Associated Press and CTV, is appealing a blanket ban under Section 517 of the Criminal Code that prohibited journalists from reporting on the bail hearings of 17 terrorism suspects in Toronto.

Under the Criminal Code, publication bans must be issued whenever an accused requests one, which is almost always.

"Section 517 effectively bans journalists from reporting on nearly everything said in court during a bail hearing - every piece of evidence, every argument made by lawyers, even the judge's reason for granting or denying bail. It's done automatically in dozens of cases every day in Canada, even when the evidence isn't likely to taint a jury pool," said CAJ President Mary Agnes Welch. "That's a huge blow to freedom of the press and the public's right to know how justice is meted out. As the Toronto Star and other media outlets argued, the public cannot have confidence in a secret process."

The appeal grew out of the 2006 arrest of 17 terrorism suspects police alleged were planning to bomb several targets in Toronto, including the CN Tower. At their bail hearing, a publication ban was imposed, but several media outlets appealed the ban and it was eventually overturned. Now, the Toronto Star and the other media outlets are arguing that the Ontario Court of Appeals didn't go far enough to remedy the wording in the Criminal Code, and that the Supreme Court should do away with mandatory bans entirely.

The CAJ is part a media coalition intervening in the case in support of the media outlets. The coalition includes the Canadian Newspaper Association, the RTNDA and Ad IDEM/Canadian Media Lawyers Association. The Supreme Court heard arguments today.

The Canadian Association of Journalists is Canada's largest professional organization for journalists from all media, with about 1,100 members across the country. The CAJ provides high-quality professional development for its members and public-interest advocacy.

SOURCE Canadian Association of Journalists

For further information: For further information: President Mary Agnes Welch - (204) 697-7590 or (204) 470-8862; Executive Director John Dickins - (613) 526-8061 or (613) 868-5442

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