On Oct. 7, 2020 Winnipeg Police Service officer Const. Rob Carver, a member of the public information office, interfered with a journalist’s ability to report after police shot a man.
Winnipeg Free Press reporter Ryan Thorpe was in the process of procuring a video from a bystander to the shooting when Const. Carver took the phone from Thorpe, preventing the video from being made public.
The Canadian Association of Journalists (CAJ) condemns the actions of the Winnipeg Police Service (WPS). The police have no right to bar a member of the public from communicating with a journalist, particularly when that person is trying to share a video regarding an incident where police shot a man.
“The actions of Cons. Carver are egregious because they violate not only the media’s right to report freely, but also because they seriously impede the public’s right to know about matters taking place in their community,” said CAJ president Brent Jolly.
Thorpe said he then went about his job of knocking on doors in the vicinity of the shooting to try and interview any possible witnesses. A different WPS officer tried to prevent Thorpe from doing this. When Thorpe ignored officers, they expanded the police-cordoned area to prevent Thorpe from any further door knocking in the immediate area.
This is not the first complaint of police interference that the CAJ has received in reference to the Winnipeg Police Service. This includes but is not limited to an incident in 2015 where WPS confiscated a camera and footage belonging to APTN.
The CAJ reminds the WPS that freedom of the press is constitutionally protected in Canada and calls on the service to remind their officers not to interfere with journalists further.
In the wake of this most recent incident, the CAJ would like to extend open-ended offers to any and all law enforcement bodies or groups to explain the critical role media rights play in a free and democractic society. The CAJ believes this would be a productive way to address the many recent misunderstandings, across the country, that have repeatedly seen journalists be arrested, restrained, or obstructed for simply doing their jobs.
“Whether it is reinforcing the fact that freedom of the press is a right enshrined in Canada’s Charter of Rights and Freedoms, or providing additional media literacy training to law enforcement and other bodies, the CAJ is ready to assist to ensure that the role journalists play in Canadian society is both clear and understood,” said Jolly.
The CAJ is Canada’s largest national professional organization for journalists from all media, representing over 700 members across the country. The CAJ’s primary roles are to provide high-quality professional development for its members and public-interest advocacy.
For more information:
Brent Jolly, CAJ president