Coalition urges press shield laws, inquiry into spying on journalists
A press freedom coalition of a dozen organizations, including CWA Canada, is calling on the federal government to take urgent action to protect journalists and their sources.
In a letter to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, Justice Minister Jody Wilson-Raybould and Public Safety Minister Ralph Goodale, the coalition expressed its concern that press freedom is being steadily eroded in Canada.
“Canada recently dropped ten places in Reporter Without Borders (RSF) World Press Freedom Index, thanks to what the organization called a ‘dark age for journalism’ under our previous federal government. Despite the Prime Minister’s strong rhetoric in support of journalism, under your government there have been multiple press freedom violations in Canada. Based on current trends, and without decisive action, the ‘dark age’ looks set to continue.
“We see this in the spying on Patrick Lagacé and his colleagues by police, the potential jail sentence faced by VICE News reporter Ben Makuch, the possible trespassing charges facing Justin Brake for his coverage of protests at Muskrat Falls, and the seizure of the Journal de Montreal’s Michael Nguyen’s laptop, among other cases. Are there other serious violations of press freedom in Canada, more journalists being spied on? Because of the lack of effective oversight of our police and surveillance agencies, Canadians simply don’t know.”
The coalition calls on the government to pass press shield laws that prevent journalists from being compelled to reveal confidential sources; fix the warrant and production order process for journalists; amend Bill C-13 to remove surveillance powers; and launch a national inquiry into spying on journalists.
Noting that Goodale has said he “welcomes input from journalists, lawyers or others” on safeguarding press freedoms, the group requests a meeting “on an urgent basis” to discuss the changes it proposes.
“Around the world, journalists are facing unprecedented threats from authoritarian governments, terrorist groups, and oppressive laws. Canada has the potential to be a global leader in pushing back on these trends, but we are instead lagging far behind. It is time for action.”
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