The man who shot the video that changed how tasers are used by police departments in Canada was presented the first CJFE Citizen Journalism Award by Canadian Journalists for Free Expression at an event last night.
Paul Pritchard is the 27-year old British Columbia native who shot the footage showing the October 14, 2007, airport encounter between the RCMP and Polish immigrant Robert Dziekanski. Pritchard's footage from his digital camera shows four police officers using a taser on Dziekanski repeatedly, ending in Dziekanski's death.
"Without the tape we wouldn't have had the journalistic investigation, the year-long inquiry into the incident, and we wouldn't have seen the safer use of the taser by police departments across the country," said CJFE President Arnold Amber. "The remarkable partnership between investigative journalists and the citizen who recorded the last minutes of Dziekanski's life has led to all these revelations and impact." Amber added "What he did probably will save many other lives down the road."
CJFE's October 27 event titled "The Citizen As Journalist: Tasers, The RCMP and Public Perception" was part of CJFE's Free to Speak series. The panel discussion featured Terry Milewski who covered the Robert Dziekanski story for the CBC, Sandra Bartlett, a CBC reporter who has investigated the story behind tasers for several years and Paul Pritchard. The conversation was moderated by Anna Maria Tremonti, host of "The Current".
The CJFE Citizen Journalism Award was given to recognize the vital role that Pritchard played in getting the facts about the incident out to the public. CJFE noted that Pritchard not only continued to tape despite pressure from security personnel to stop, but crucially, after surrendering his footage to police on the night of the incident, hired a lawyer and battled successfully to get the tape returned three weeks later. The RCMP reneged on their initial promise to return the tape within 48 hours and had informed Pritchard that they wouldn't return it for two years.
CJFE salutes Paul Pritchard who has demonstrated values that we need in citizens and journalists - the courage to bear witness and do the right thing. In presenting the Citizen Journalism award, CJFE President Arnold Amber remarked "Canada needs more Paul Pritchards."