TORONTO, ON. Jan. 19, 2024/CNW/ – The Canadian Association of Journalists (CAJ) demands that all national, provincial and regional law enforcement agencies swiftly implement enforceable policies that will prevent journalists from being improperly arrested or detained.

Within the past month, multiple Canadian journalists have been arrested or forcibly detained while reporting from the field. 

Last Wednesday, while on assignment for Ricochet Media, freelance journalist Brandi Morin was arrested by the Edmonton Police Service while conducting interviews at a downtown Edmonton encampment site. Morin was charged with obstruction, fingerprinted, and released on a promise to appear in court on Feb. 1.  

In late December, GuelphToday senior reporter and assistant editor Richard Vivian had his camera equipment confiscated, was physically assaulted and threatened with arrest by an OPP officer while reporting from the site of a fatal automobile collision. 

“The brazen assault by law enforcement against journalists should send a shiver down the spine of every Canadian that believes in democracy and freedom of the press,” said Brent Jolly, president of the CAJ.  

“These latest examples are, sadly, just the tip of the proverbial iceberg. The tactics of assaulting and trying to intimidate journalists in order to prevent them from covering news in the public interest is a practice that is becoming exceedingly normalized.”

The CAJ and others, including the Canada Press Freedom Project, will continue to document instances where law enforcement agencies obstruct journalists from doing their jobs. What needs to change, however, is that law enforcement agencies must account for the role journalists play in observing, documenting, and reporting on important events that take place in public spaces, which includes approaching politicians and members of the public for comment. 

The CAJ calls on those agencies, regardless of their jurisdiction, to immediately take the steps necessary to ensure that press freedom, and the safety of journalists, are protected. That includes offering all officers proper media training so that the role of the press is understood and respected by all. 

“Journalists have a right to be present and to bear witness to police actions,” Jolly said. “Acts of lawlessness demonstrated by those entrusted to enforce society’s rules is a sobering reflection that significant change is required. Journalists are the public’s eyes and ears and have been recognized by multiple courts of law as playing a critical role in a functional society.”

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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