The CAJ has been going to court to fight for press freedom since our founding in 1978. We generally oppose publication bans, production orders and gag orders. We also fight to protect confidential sources. In addition, we work to get charges against journalists dropped and challenge the police’s attempts to stop journalists from reporting on them.
We’re proud to have played a leading role in many of the most pivotal legal fights for press freedom over the past four decades. If you’re a journalist in need of legal help we want to hear from you.
If you need immediate help (i.e. you’ve been arrested and are calling from jail) please call or text CAJ President Brent Jolly at 289-387-3179. If you’re looking for longer term support (i.e. you’re a media outlet looking for the CAJ to intervene on your side in court) please email Brent at firstname.lastname@example.org.
The CAJ is a volunteer run association composed of journalist members who believe in the importance of press freedom. Want to support us? If you’re a journalist, please become a member and reach out to volunteer. The more journalists that join this fight the better. If you’re a member of the public, please donate. If you’re a lawyer interested in doing pro-bono work on press freedom issues, please contact us.
The CAJ has a long history of intervening in court cases
- We oppose publication bans
- We issued this statement in 2009: “CAJ welcomes publication ban denial in Jane Creba murder case” and then went to the Supreme Court two months later on the same issue: CAJ intervenes in publication ban case.
- In 2021 we welcomed a Supreme Court ruling letting journalists challenge publication bans after they’ve been issued.
- We fight to protect confidential sources:
- Often this is an uphill battle. Here’s us in 2008: “CAJ troubled by a federal court ruling that could compel two Montreal journalists to reveal their sources”. And on the same topic in May 2010 where the Supreme Court ordered a National Post reporter to hand over documents that could reveal his confidential source. And again in 2018 when the Supreme Court ordered a Vice reporter to do the same.
- Sometimes we win though! In 2010, the Supreme Court ruled that the Globe and Mail could keep a confidential source’s identity secret. In 2019, we got a Supreme Court ruling stating that journalists should only have to reveal their sources as a last resort.
- We work to get charges against journalists dropped:
- We usually start with a public statement demanding charges against journalists be dropped. See, for example, this 1999 one, “CAJ Condemns Arrest of Journalists”, this 2013 one CAJ upset RCMP arrested working journalist in New Brunswick, this 2015 one CAJ shocked CTV journalist charged, this 2017 one Press Freedom Coalition Condemns Criminal Charges Against Reporter Justin Brake and this 2018 one Journalist group condemns charges against father-son newspaper duo.
- In addition to issuing public statements, we connect with the reporter who is in jail and work to get them pro bono representation. We also speak with their employer and find out if they’re planning on issuing a legal challenge. Finally, we contact the arresting police force (e.g. RCMP, OPP) to object directly and ask them to stop targeting journalists.
- When all this isn’t enough we go to court ourselves to try. The latest example is Fairy Creek where we won a significant victory for press freedom in 2021: CAJ and press freedom coalition win court challenge against RCMP media restrictions at Fairy Creek. We also played a key role in this 2019 victory: Court decision a victory for journalists covering Indigenous protests.
- We oppose production orders and gag orders:
- Police use a combination of production orders and gag orders to require media outlets to hand over information while banning them from talking about it. When it happens to really big players like Global News we find out about it 18 months later. It’s probably also happening to smaller players and we’ll never know.
- This is an area where the CAJ would like to do more work.
- We challenge the police’s attempts to stop journalists from reporting on them:
- In 2001 we opposed the police’s seizure of photographs taken by the Edmonton Sun and video taken by Global Television.
- In 2002 we fought against an RCMP attempt to seize files from the National Post. In 2003 we condemned Toronto police for seizing footage from CTV.
- We also fight against police surveilling journalists homes, pretending to be them, and searching their homes.
We’re also proud to lead the legal fight against the increasingly common police tactic of arresting journalists who are trying to report on police interactions with protestors. This includes Fairy Creek, Wet’suwet’en, Muskrat Falls and lots of other places.