Awarding of Grant to Author Stephen Williams A Victory for Free Expression, Groups Say

Wednesday, May 12, 2004
Author Stephen Williams is a recipient of a 2004 Hellman/Hammett grant - several free expression groups called it a victory for freedom of expression in Canada. Williams, who has been critical of the Ontario government for its plea bargain deal with murderer Karla Homolka, was nominated as a result of the province's unprecedented criminal and civil prosecutions against him. He faces 97 criminal charges for allegedly violating a publication ban connected to the trial of Homolka's partner, Paul Bernardo. The Ontario government is also seeking punitive damages in a civil suit claiming he was in "wrongful possession" of Crown brief material from the Bernardo case. "We applaud this decision to recognize Stephen Williams," said PEN Canada National Affairs Chair Chris Waddell. "His battle with the provincial government has often been a lonely one, so we are thrilled to see him receive this support from such a respected organization as Human Rights Watch." "We are happy that Stephen Williams has won this grant, which will provide much-needed financial support for his court battle, but it should be an embarrassment to the Ontario authorities who are pursuing this case", said Arnold Amber, President of Canadian Journalists for Free Expression (CJFE). For his part, Ron Brown, Chair of the Rights and Freedoms committee of the Writers' Union of Canada, welcomed the news, adding that "the tactics used against Stephen Williams - which included a raid on his home and time spent in jail - cast a chill on those who write critically of the justice system." CJFE, PEN Canada and the Writers' Union of Canada together comprise a new coalition to support Stephen Williams and his battle with the Ontario government. The continuing harassment of Williams, along with his partner, writer Marsha Boulton, has drained the couple financially. The Hellman/Hammett Grants assist writers and journalists around the world who have been persecuted because of their work and are in financial need. The grant program is administered by US-based Human Rights Watch. For more information, please contact: Canadian Journalists for Free Expression, tel. 416 515 9622, e-mail: jpayne@cjfe.org. PEN Canada, tel. 416 703 8448, e-mail: dcozac@pencanada.ca. Writers' Union of Canada, tel. 416 504 9090, e-mail: ron.brown8@sympatico.ca.

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