CJFE Calls on Government to Rein in the RCMP after Raid on Journalist's Home

Sunday, February 22, 2004
Canadian Journalists for Free Expression (CJFE) condemns the RCMP raid yesterday on Ottawa Citizen journalist Juliet O'Neill's home and offices, and calls upon Prime Minister Martin and Deputy Minister Anne McLellan to rein in the RCMP and revisit the package of Anti-Terrorism legislation. The raid, which appears to be in response to O'Neill's November 8 article about the Maher Arar case, was carried out under a search warrant obtained under the Security of Information Act. The RCMP are reportedly attempting to identify the RCMP source that leaked information to O'Neill. "This extremely invasive action is an affront to every journalist's right to practice his or her profession," CJFE Board Member Bob Carty said, adding that "CJFE believes that journalists should not be faced with criminal prosecution for doing their jobs." CJFE Board Member and lawyer Frank Addario pointed out that "in recent decisions Canada's courts have indicated that the police should seek every reasonable alternative before invading a journalist's office or home and that search warrants against the media should be minimally invasive." In this case the RCMP have given no indication that they sought such alternatives and their invasion of Juliet O'Neill's home was a case book example of maximum invasiveness. Our fear is that there is a dangerous message in the way this warrant was executed - that journalists who use confidential sources to report on the RCMP risk the same treatment. This smacks of intimidation and as such is a threat to freedom of expression that deeply troubles the CJFE. CJFE Board Member Paul Knox says this is exactly what CJFE predicted in 2001 when it opposed the government's new Anti-Terrorism legislation, including the new Official Secrets/Security of Information Act. In a detailed analysis of the Act CJFE warned "that it could lead to the prosecution of a journalist or indeed any Canadian who receives and disseminates information whose publication is clearly in the public interest." If charged under the Act, O'Neill would be the subject of the first Official-Secrets prosecution in Canada in decades. It appears that the 'war on terror' which has resulted in a Canadian citizen being deported to a Syrian prison, has struck again, this time on free expression. CJFE is an association of more than 300 journalists, editors, publishers, producers, students and others who work to promote and defend free expression and press freedom in Canada and around the world. For more information, contact Julie Payne at (416) 515-9622 or e-mail:jpayne@cjfe.org

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