Newfoundland journalist should not be arrested for doing his job

OTTAWA, OCT. 28  — Journalists must be able to bear witness to events in the public interest without fear that they’ll face legal consequences just for doing their job, said the Canadian Association of Journalists in the aftermath of a protest at the worksite of the controversial Muskrat Falls hydroelectric project in Labrador.

Justin Brake, a journalist and editor at the Independent newspaper in that province, had embedded himself with Indigenous protesters who’d entered the worksite in defiance of an existing injunction. Brake was the only reporter to enter the site’s perimeter, and one of only a few journalists covering the occupation.

On the morning of Oct. 25, Brake was named in a court-ordered subpoena that allowed the local sheriff to arrest any individuals who had violated the injunction received by Nalcor Energy, the proponent of the project. Brake left the site, but may still face charges—despite his assertion that he was acting solely as a reporter filing for the Independent.

“We want to know why a reporter’s name was not removed from the subpoena as soon as it became apparent that he was simply following a story and telling it to his readers,” said CAJ President Nick Taylor-Vaisey. “It’s imperative that reporters be allowed to work in the public interest, as is our constitutional right.”

Authorities also have to recognize that all citizens have a right to observe, question and speak out about powerful interests in their communities. As mainstream news sources are less able to cover developing stories in remote areas, independent news sources and active citizens continue to speak truth to power. Their freedom of expression must be recognized.

The CAJ is Canada's largest national professional organization for journalists from all media, representing nearly 500 members across the country. The CAJ's primary roles are to provide public-interest advocacy and high-quality professional development for its members.

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Nick Taylor-Vaisey, CAJ president


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