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Journalists and the law

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This section contains information, advice and commentary on legal issues that affect how journalists do their jobs.
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N.S. judge opens youth court records

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News
Young offenders handed an adult sentence for serious crimes not only lose the right to remain anonymous; they should expect pre-sentence and psychological reports filed with the courts to be made public. That’s the finding of a Nova Scotia youth court judge who in May 2006 ordered the release of exhibits tendered at the sentencing hearing of a 17-year-old joyrider who killed a Halifax woman while fleeing police in a stolen car. By Dean Jobb.
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CAJ slams attempt to seize reporter’s research

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News
The Canadian Association of Journalists opposes the Edmonton Police Service’s attempt to seize a reporter’s research into a high-profile murder case. “Journalists are not agents of the state, and police should not be depending on them to provide the information needed for criminal investigations,” CAJ president Paul Schneidereit says in a press release.
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Open justice is best

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Commentary
A Toronto Star editorial backs proposals to improve media access to the Ontario courts. Journalists could be allowed to use tape recorders to take notes in the courtroom, and the Internet may be used to notify media outlets of motions to ban publication of evidence. Television cameras may even be permitted to record some hearings.
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British ruling shields ‘responsible journalism’

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News
Britain’s House of Lords has ruled that publishing or broadcasting a report on a matter of intense public interest or importance is not defamatory, even if the story turns out to be false, if the media organization adhered to the standards of “responsible journalism.” The October 2006 ruling expands the scope of the defence of qualified privilege and is being hailed as a major victory for investigative journalism. While Canadian courts are not bound to follow the precedent, the ruling should have an impact on defamation law in Canada. Toronto media law specialist Peter Downard analyzes the ruling in the October 2006 Defamation Bulletin. Read the judgment.
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Terror case publication ban should be lifted

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Commentary
In an editorial, the Toronto Star explains why it joined forces with major Canadian and American news organizations in June 2006 to challenge a publication ban on the bail hearings of 17 people accused of plotting terror attacks in Canada.It’s time, the paper argues, to rethink routine bans that shroud the evidence heard at pre-trial hearings, particularly when a case deals with allegations of national and international importance.

Judgerejects application by Toronto Star, CBC and New York Times to lift ban. See the CBC Online story.
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The wrong arm of the law

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Feature
How three investigative reporters — Stevie Cameron, Andrew McIntosh, and Juliet O’Neill — got so close to the story that they became the story. Read Elysse Zarek’s report in the Ryerson Review of Journalism.
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Trial by journalist

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Feature
In Canada, you’re innocent until proven guilty. You wouldn’t know it from reading some of Christie Blatchford’s columns on high-profile trials. Mike Drach of the Ryerson Review of Journalism explains how one journalist has pushed the limits of the law of contempt of court.
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Media access to court exhibits

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Analysis
Recent court rulings should give journalists better access to documents, photographs, videotapes and other evidence presented as exhibits in court cases. By David Crerar and Majda Dabaghi
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When the police come calling

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Feature
In the wake of allegations against investigative reporter Stevie Cameron, journalists find themselves wondering where they stand on giving the police information. As Sam Mednick writes in the King’s Journalism Review, a former Halifax reporter says a meeting with the military police caused him more problems than he could have ever foreseen.
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