CJFE Disappointed by Decision in Access to Information Case

    TORONTO, April 6 /CNW/ - Canadian Journalists for Free Expression (CJFE)
is dismayed by the Federal Court decision on an application brought by Ottawa
professor Amir Attaran. Attaran had applied to the court to review DFAIT's
redacting of annual human rights reports on Afghanistan. The Honourable
Justice Kelen concluded that in just two cases, where information had already
been made public, should DFAIT now disclose this information.
    CJFE had intervened on this case due to our concerns that access to
information, vital to the Canadian public, is being denied. Amir Attaran had
requested DFAIT's Annual Human Rights Reports from 2002-2006 to help him in
his research on the treatment of Afghan detainees. Attaran conducts research
into this issue as part of his academic research on human rights and
international development, for which he has been consulted by media outlets,
government departments and politicians, as well as the Manley Panel.
    A crucial part of the decision rests on Justice Kelen's agreement with
DFAIT officials that "negative references or criticisms of Afghan political,
security and police authorities would undermine those relationships and become
a hurdle for the Canadian government representatives on the ground in
Afghanistan." Justice Kelen accepted DFAIT's argument that public reporting by
Canada on the torture of Afghan detainees would damage its relationships with
Afghan officials, even though other countries such as the U.S., the U.K. and
even Afghanistan itself, through the Afghanistan Independent Human Rights
Commission, have done so, apparently without any such damage being suffered.
    CJFE agrees with the comments in the April 3 edition of The Globe and
Mail by Bev Oda, International Cooperation Minister, "it is a glaring example
of where the international community has to sit down and work with the
government on open, transparent processes." Oda was speaking about a different
matter - the news that Afghanistan has just passed laws severely restricting
the human rights of women in Afghanistan. The government she was talking about
was the Afghan government, but we believe that the open, transparent processes
she calls for are equally relevant and necessary in Canada.

    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.

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