Open Letter to Ottawa Police Regarding Press Freedom Violations

This is an open letter from the Canadian Association of Journalists to the Ottawa police

OTTAWA (ON), February 21, 2022 /CNW/ – Dear Mr. Steve Belltemp worker Ottawa chief of police department,

I am writing to you in my capacity as National President of the Canadian Association of Journalists with concerns about gross press freedom violations reported to me by journalists currently reporting from Ottawa.

As you know, journalists have been the subject of significant hostility. Journalists have been repeatedly threatened while on the ground during “freedom” protests across the country. We notice, for example, how a journalist got shoved while doing a camera. Another journalist from Ottawa was recently doxxed, with his home address posted on 4chan. Other journalists were yelled at and spat at as they cover protests near Canada-US border in Surrey, BC and the Okanagan. We recognize the Surrey The RCMP has opened an investigation into the treatment of journalists at the event.

Over the weekend, however, it has come to our attention that several journalists covering the events of Ottawa, in particular the so-called “freedom convoy”, were denied access by law enforcement to several areas where newsworthy events were taking place. This is despite having media credentials and other required documents, such as Parliament Hill passes. We are disappointed that these restrictions continue to be imposed on journalists despite our association’s ongoing advocacy efforts.

We know, for example, that the Globe and Mail reporter Marieka Walsh; Global News Ottawa Bureau Chief Mercedes Stephenson; CTV Parliamentary Reporter Annie Bergeron-Oliver; investigative journalist Justin Lin; photojournalist Carlos Osori; and NPR reporter Emma Jacobs, among others, were denied or delayed due to this police interference. Some journalists have also been threatened with arrest for simply doing their job. This is unacceptable and should never happen in a democratic society.

I want to emphasize that these journalists were seeking public interest information with no intention of interfering in any way with the work of law enforcement. Canadian law protects the ability of journalists to access and report on any matter of public interest, as it is essential to the proper functioning of democracy.

We will highlight the recent British Columbia Supreme Court decision, which ruled that the RCMP’s practice of employing large “exclusion zones” was not legal. In his decision Judge Thompson said the RCMP must “consider the special role of the media in a free and democratic society and the need to avoid undue and unnecessary interference with the journalistic function” when police apply restraining orders.

A historic court decision on this issue was forwarded by the Newfoundland and Labrador Court of Appeal of March 2019commonly called the Justin Brake Case. He reiterated that special considerations apply to journalists covering a protest even when an injunction order has been issued.

In his decision, the judge Derek Green proposes a five-point test which establishes, through its legal interpretation, the conditions under which journalists are authorized or can be excluded.

Journalists are legally permitted if:

  1. The person is engaged in apparent good faith in news gathering
  2. He or she does not actively assist, participate in, or defend the protesters about whom the reports are made;
  3. He or she does not do any act that could reasonably be considered to aid or abet protesters in their protest actions or to disobey any order that has already been given;
  4. He or she does not obstruct or otherwise interfere with those seeking to enforce the law or any order that has already been made or otherwise interfere with the administration of justice;
  5. Reportable matters are matters that can generally be considered matters of public interest. Special consideration should be given to events involving indigenous peoples.

We would like to keep the channels of communication open on this issue and hope that you will act quickly to put an end to the continued violations of press freedom by your agents. If you don’t, we’re ready to go to court to defend the right of journalists to report in Canada. We have repeatedly called on law enforcement to respect the freedom of journalists to do their job.

Thank you for your time and attention to this issue.

Best wishes,
Brent Jolly

Cc: RCMP, Ontario Provincial Police, Sûreté du Québec, Calgary Police Service, Durham Regional Police

SOURCE Canadian Association of Journalists

For more information: If you have any questions or concerns, please feel free to contact me via email at [email protected] or on my mobile at: 289-387-3179.

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