Grant media access to Omar Khadr

Friday, August 8, 2014
Canadian Journalists for Free Expression (CJFE) believes that media should be granted permission to speak with Omar Khadr. For over two years, media requests to interview Khadr have consistently been denied by Correctional Service Canada. On July 22, 2014, the Toronto Star, CBC, and White Pine Pictures took the issue to federal court, arguing the constitutional protection of the public’s right to know is being violated. CJFE supports this request. CJFE is strongly committed to defending free expression and press freedom. Guaranteed under Canada’s Charter of Rights and Freedoms, freedom of the press is critical for maintaining an informed public. CJFE firmly believes that media have the right to interview Omar Khadr, and that Canadians have the right to hear from him. A Canadian citizen, Khadr was detained in Afghanistan in 2002 at the age of 15, accused of throwing a grenade in a firefight that killed U.S. Sergeant First Class Christopher Speer. He was then moved to Guantanamo Bay, and was eventually transferred back to Canada in 2012. Last month, Khadr won a court challenge to be moved to a provincial prison from federal detention, although the federal government is appealing the decision. He sentence ends in 2018 and his statutory release date is 2016. He is currently eligible to apply for parole. During his entire time in detention, Khadr has not once been granted the opportunity to speak to media, despite giving his consent to be interviewed. In contrast, the Canadian government has frequently spoken out on his case. CJFE believes Canadians have a right to hear both sides of this story. Even U.S. Sergeant First Class Layne Morris, injured in the same firefight where Khadr was detained, would like to hear from Khadr. CJFE sees no justifiable reason to continue silencing Khadr and blocking media access. CJFE supports the court filing made by the Toronto Star, CBC, and White Pine Pictures. We have a right to know. Other support for granting media access to Khadr:Canadian Civil Liberties AssociationThe Globe and MailNew York TimesOttawa CitizenToronto Star

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