Journalists may want to get into the habit of locking their cellphones in the wake of a ruling by the Ontario Court of Appeal which found police do not need a warrant to search unprotected phones, says Thomas Rose.
Six media outlets in British Columbia will hand over thousands of photos and videos of last June’s Vancouver riots to police under a court order – but not before putting them online for readers to see.
Legal, human rights and media experts from across Canada gathered in Halifax on November 1, 2008 to discuss the limits on what Canadians can say and publish about sensitive issues such as race, religion or sexual orientation. "The Media's Right to Offend: Exploring Legal and Ethical Limits on Free Speech," the 6th annual Joseph Howe Symposium, was organized by the University of King's College School of Journalism and Calgary's Sheldon Chumir Foundation for Ethics in Leadership.
The one-day symposium explored the impact of human rights laws on freedom of expression and featured a keynote address by Globe and Mail columnist Margarent Wente. Panelists included Ezra Levant, former publisher of the Western Standard; Noa Mendelsohn Aviv, director of the Canadian Civil Liberties Association’s Freedom of Expression Project; Kelly Toughill, associate professor of journalism at King's and Toronto Star columnist; Wayne MacKay of Dalhousie Law School, an expert in constitutional and human rights law; John Miller, associate chair of the Ryerson School of Journalism; and Krista Daley, Director and CEO of the Nova Scotia Human Rights Commission.
Click here to view videos of the presentations.
Click here for links to news coverage and background information on the issues discussed.
Canada's major police forces have assigned officers to pose as journalists or would consider doing so to combat crime. Journalists condemn the practice, saying it undermines their credibility and threatens freedom of the press. University of King's College journalism student Ruth Mestechkin explores the battle between the notebook and the badge in the King's Journalism Review.
(A protest just south of Caledonia on May 23, 2007. (CP PHOTO/Nathan Denette)
Toronto (March 18, 2008) -- Courts should be extremely cautious about using their contempt powers against journalists who refuse to identify a confidential source, the Ontario Court of Appeal said yesterday in setting aside a trial judge's hefty sanctions against a Hamilton Spectator reporter. Toronto Star legal affairs reporter Tracey Tyler reports.
Read the ruling.
Read the Hamilton Spectator and The Canadian Press reports.
The Canadian Association of Journalists issued a press release welcoming the ruling but calling for a shield law to protect journalists and their sources.
A pair of Ontario court rulings recognize that a journalist may need to promise confidentiality to protect a source. But that may not be enough to stop the police and judges from demanding names if push comes to shove. J-Source media law editor Dean Jobb looks for lessons in the National Post and Hamilton Spectator rulings.
Ontario's highest court has overturned a ruling -- the first of its kind in Canada -- that granted a journalist the right to protect a confidential source. The Feb. 29, 2008 judgment of the province's Court of Appeal authorizes the seizure of a loan document the National Post used as part of its "Shawinigate" investigation in the business dealings of former prime minister Jean Chrétien. The RCMP can now analyze the document, which the Business Development Bank claims is a forgery, to determine who leaked it. The Post and its former reporter Andrew McIntosh argued the tests could reveal the identity of a confidential source but the court said the Charter guarantee of press freedom does not make journalists "immune" to searches or give them "an automatic right to protect the confidentiality of their sources" In this case, the need to ascertain the truth through a police investigation outweighed the public interest in protecting the newspaper's source.
See The Lawyers Weekly report on the ruling.
The Post will seek leave to appeal the ruling to the Supreme Court of Canada. "We believe that, except in the most extraordinary circumstances, reporters must be permitted to honour the promises of confidentiality they provide their sources," Editor-in-Chief Douglas Kelly said in a March 25 press release. "Even scattered exceptions to such a rule would chill informants, and thereby cause investigative reporting to become a dead letter."
Reaction: The president of the Canadian Association of Journalists, Mary Agnes Welch, issued a press release criticizing the ruling as "regressive" and "a major setback for press freedom and the public's right to know." But Ryerson University journalism professor John Miller, in a commentary in The Globe and Mail, argues the court struck the proper balance between press freedom and crime detection and journalists should "be wary about giving sources blanket, unconditional promises to protect their identities."
The Canadian Association of Journalists is speaking out against court rulings that could compel journalists in Quebec and Ontario to reveal their sources. On Jan. 22, 2008 a federal court judge ordered two La Presse reporters to reveal the source of a document leaked about a suspect being held on a security certificate. CAJ president Mary Agnes Welch warns the order could have "a chilling effect" on sources. The association also announced it will intervene in an appeal that could overturn a 2004 finding that Hamilton Spectator reporter Ken Peters was in contemopt of court when he refused to name a source. Read the press releases on the the La Presse and Peters cases.
Journalists who inadvertently violate a publication ban imposed on a court case have not committed a crime, Ontario's top court says in a January 2007 ruling. Media outlets are ultimately responsible for what gets published and only their bosses can be prosecuted. But Toronto media lawyer Lorne Honickman warns that reporters broadcasting live from the courthouse or posting directly to online blogs can still be charged with violating a ban. By Dean Jobb.
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