CAJ applauds passage of press shield law

OTTAWA, Oct. 5, 2017 — The Canadian Association of Journalists is pleased that Parliament is set to pass Bill S-231, which strengthens protections for confidential sources of journalists. The Journalistic Sources Protection Act passed third reading at the end of September, and is expected to receive royal assent shortly.

The new law will allow journalists to refuse to surrender documents to law enforcement officials that would identify an anonymous source, except in certain circumstances.

“This last year has been marked by repeated threats to journalistic independence and the press freedom that underscores our democracy, as well as Canadians' ability to have the information necessary to engage in public debate,” said CAJ president Nick Taylor-Vaisey. “Brave whistleblowers who approach journalists—speaking anonymously and at great personal risk—often expose stories of corruption and public interest. This bill will provide much-needed legal protection to those Canadians.”

The CAJ also supports the creation of a special advocate who would, at the request of a judge, make the case for continued protection of sources when legal authorities seek warrants for surveillance or seizure of records that could identify anonymous sources.

Despite this positive step forward, Canada still struggles to provide certain basic press freedoms, and ranked 22nd in the 2017 World Press Freedom Index compiled by Reporters Without Borders.

“In recent years, law enforcement repeatedly tapped the phones of journalists. Courts consistently approved warrants that harmed press freedom,” said Taylor-Vaisey. “A federal agency went so far as to hire a private investigator to identify an investigative journalist's anonymous source.”

The Canadian Association of Journalists supports this bill and applauds the advocates who pushed so hard for its passage. The CAJ now calls on the country’s public officials to respect the role press freedom plays in a strong Canadian democracy.

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

For more information: 

Nick Taylor-Vaisey, CAJ President
[email protected]

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