A group of Nova Scotia media outlets has successfully challenged a ruling that allowed a young man convicted of murdering a cab driver to have his identity shielded pending an appeal of his conviction. The ruling means offenders who are under the age of 18 but sentenced as adults are not entitled to a ban on publishing their names simply because an appeal court may determine they should have been sentenced under the Youth Criminal Justice Act. Read the CBC News and Halifax Chronicle Herald reports. The Supreme Court of Canada refused in June 2008 to hear the youth's appeal but gave no reasons. Read the earlier Nova Scotia Court of Appeal ruling refusing to ban his identity.
Ontario's highest court has endorsed the British libel defence of "responsible journalism." The Toronto Star has been quick to take advantage of the new defence and the Supreme Court of Canada is poised to decide whether it will become the law of the land. J-Source media law editor Dean Jobb takes a look at the new defence and what it means for journalists.
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.
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."
Ezra Levant of the now-defunct Western Standard and Maclean's columnist Mark Steyn have been hauled before Canadian human rights commissions. The issue, Halifax journalism professor Kelly Toughill writes in her Jan. 26, 2008 column in the Toronto Star, is not whether Levant should have published controversial cartoons about Muhammad, or whether Maclean's has been fair in depicting Muslims. The issue is who gets to decide what the press can publish and what the public gets to read.
Reinforcing the protection given to confidential police informers, the Supreme Court of Canada has ruled that the court and Crown have no discretion to disclose any details to the public or media that could lead to their identification. Helen Burnett of the Law Times reports.
Toronto's Osgoode Hall Law School hosted a panel discussion on March 21, 2007, exploring media coverage of Mahar Arar story. How should journalists have handled anonymous leaks that falsely branded Arar a terrorist? Should the media "out" confidential sources who spread lies? These are among the issues discussed by Julian Falconer, one of Arar's lawyers; Paul Knox, journalist and chair of Ryerson University School of Journalism; and Andrew Mitrovica, Journalist and professor of journalism at Sheridan College. Osgoode Hall Professor Craig Scott chaired the discussion. View the video of the discussion.
Faced with the challenge of reporting on the graphic evidence presented at the murder trial of Robert Pickton, editors struggled to decide how much was too much. What do audiences want, and should they always get it? Regan Ray reports in the Ryerson Review of Journalism.
Edmonton (June 7, 2007) -- An Alberta judge has ruled that mandatory bans on publishing evidence presented at bail hearings are unconstitutional. The federal government has a year to change the law to limit such bans to cases where media coverage could prejudice the right to a fair trial. Fred Kozak, one of the lawyers who argued the case on the media's behalf, calls it a "landmark" ruling that "recognizes that openness and transparency are important aspects for our judicial system at every stage of the process."
Read the CBC News report.
Read an analysis of the ruling and its significance.
Review Justice C.S. Brooker's ruling.
Edited by Thomas Rose
The Law Section is a clearinghouse for news, information, advice and commentary on matters of law of importance to journalists and to anyone with a passion or just a curiosity about the issues of our times.
Thomas Rose lectures in law and journalism at Wilfrid Laurier University. His research interests include journalism and democracy, international criminal law, and freedom of expression.
Thomas has published in various peer-reviewed academic journals and has an LL.M in International Law from Leiden University and a Masters in Studies of Law from Yale Law School. He is also an award winning journalist. Thomas has worked in public and private media for more than two decades as a Reporter, Senior Producer, Executive Producer, and Project Manager on national, regional and international multi-media projects. His work has taken him to Ghana, Italy, Northern Ireland, Vietnam, Russia, South Africa, and the United States. From 2006-2010 Thomas provided commentary and analysis on global affairs and legal issues for CBC online.
News & Views
Advice & Resources
- Resource Centre
- General Tools
- Tools for Ensuring Accuracy
- Tools for Interviewing
- Tools for Locating Sources
- Tools for Specific Beats
- Tools for Web Research
- Tools for Writing
- Jobs and Internships
- Events Calendar
- Ask a Mentor
Education & Research
Rights & Wrongs
- Alternative Media
- The Business of Journalism
- Computer-assisted Reporting
- Covering Violence & Trauma
- Freedom of Expression
- Health and Medical Journalism
- Investigative Journalism
- Science Journalism
- The Future of News
- Visual Journalism
- Agricultural Journalism
- Back To School
- Children & Media
- Citizen Journalism
- Feature Writing
- Financial Journalism
- Journalism Online
- Managing Journalists
- Newsroom Diversity
Years - decades - before he NNAs found itself in a quandry about new media, it...20 hours 15 min ago
Very sorry to hear about Neil Reynold's death. We need more of his kind in journalism --...21 hours 18 min ago
Thank you, Thomas, I'll check it out.1 day 12 hours ago