Winnipeg, MB, Feb 26, 2024/ – The Canadian Association of Journalists (CAJ) is deeply disappointed by the decision of a Manitoba judge that examined a 2017 incident where the camera of Winnipeg Sun photojournalist Chris Procaylo was seized by Winnipeg Police without a warrant.

“This decision is a chilling response that brings into focus the very precarious situations journalists face in interactions with police while covering breaking public interest news stories,” said Brent Jolly, president of the CAJ.

On December 2, 2017, Procaylo investigated reports of a person causing havoc at a Main Street business and arrived to find a seriously injured man with police and in handcuffs. That man later died in hospital.

Procaylo proceeded to document the scene without interfering with the work of emergency responders.

At no point did Procaylo interfere with law enforcement’s investigation at the scene of the crime. As his testimony explains, Procaylo said he was told by a Winnipeg Police officer to move about 50 feet away from the scene. He complied with this request.

Shortly thereafter, the officer re-approached Procaylo saying he was seizing his camera without a warrant as part of his investigation. The camera was returned later that day.

“The seizure of a journalist’s camera is not permitted under any circumstance by either statute or common law,” Jolly said.

“To say this is a simple ‘administrative error’ on the part of law enforcement stretches the limits of credulity that papers over the real problem, which is a continued disregard by law enforcement agencies about the critical role journalists play as the eyes and ears of the public.”

As Procaylo testified, he has covered hundreds of crime scenes since becoming a full-time journalist in 1996 and knows the rules about how to comport himself in a professional way in uncertain situations.

“Decisions like this one from Justice Cellitti mean that similar acts could befall any journalist who is out in the field doing their job,” Jolly said.

The CAJ calls on all Canadian law enforcement agencies to respect a journalist’s right to do their job without interference and to ensure there are effective policies in place to ensure officers working on-the-ground understand the rules that uphold press freedom laws and norms.

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

For further information: Brent Jolly, president, Canadian Association of Journalists, brent@caj.ca

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