The CAJ is very concerned about recent accounts of police interference with journalists reporting from Wet’suwet’en. The following is an open letter from CAJ president Brent Jolly to the B.C. RCMP. If you are reporting from the ground and need assistance, please reach out.
Dear Dawn (Roberts), Chris (Manseau), Madonna (Saunderson), and Janelle (Shoihet),
I hope this note finds you well. I’m writing to you in my capacity as national president of the Canadian Association of Journalists with some concerns about possible violation of press freedoms that have been shared with me by journalists currently reporting from Wet’suwet’en and surrounding areas.
We have heard that at least one member of the media may have recently been arrested. I am aware there are several others on the ground and, given the public interest dynamic of this issue, several more will be arriving in the coming day or two.
I am aware that award-winning photojournalist Amber Bracken is onsite reporting for The Narwhal. As well, Dan Loan and Michael Toledano are both recognized independent documentary filmmakers who are working on a documentary for national television. I am also aware that local freelance journalist Dan Mesec has been denied access to the Morice River Forest Service Road. In the coming day, we expect Brandi Morin, from Al Jazeera, Lee Wilson from APTN, Amanda Follett Hosgood for the Tyee, and Matt Simmons, from The Narwhal, and others, will also be reporting on the events in the area.
I’d like to emphasize that all journalists who are arriving onsite have no intention of interfering with the work of the RCMP in any way. Canadian law protects the ability of journalists to access and report on any matter of public interest as it is essential to the proper functioning of democracy. It is my sincere hope that journalists will be allowed to do their work, in accordance with the law.
We would emphasize the recent decision by the B.C. Supreme Court, which ruled that the RCMP’s practice of employing vast “exclusion zones” were not legal. In his decision Justice Thompson stated the RCMP must “take account of the media’s special role in a free and democratic society and the necessity of avoiding undue and unnecessary interference with the journalistic function” when police enforce injunction orders.
As always, we are willing to keep channels of communications open. If you have any questions or concerns, please do not hesitate to contact me by email or on my cell at: 289-387-3179.
Thank you for your time and careful consideration of this matter.
The Canadian Association of Journalists