Feeding the Hand That Bites You

Date: 
Tuesday, January 18, 2005
Location: 
Toronto:Jorgenson Hall - L-72, Ryerson University, Toronto, 350 Victoria St. (at Gould)

What should Investigative Reporters do
when the State comes calling - with a stick in its hand?
Four Case Studies

Date: Tuesday, January 18, 2005
Time: 7:30 p.m.
Place: Jorgenson Hall - L-72, Ryerson University, Toronto, 350 Victoria St. (at Gould)

Featuring: Author Stevie Cameron, Juliet O'Neill (Ottawa Citizen), Andrew McIntosh (National Post), and Ken Peters (Hamilton Spectator)

Moderator: Peter Desbarats, former Maclean Hunter Chair of Media Ethics, Ryerson Polytechnic University

Presented by Poking the State With a Stick Enterprises., in association with
the Canadian Journalists for Free Expression and the Ryerson School of Journalism.
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There are no rule books and few reliable guides to assist investigative journalists who set out to probe the State - only to find it hitting back via the police, the courts and even CSIS, our homegrown spooks.

What do you do when the State comes calling?

# The RCMP turned up at the offices of the National Post's Andrew McIntosh demanding his copy of an allegedly forged document that was a key twist in the murky Shawinigate scandal. His paper fought the search warrant and won a lower court ruling that says freedom of the press can sometimes trump police investigative demands.

#The RCMP tailed the Ottawa Citizen's Juliet O'Neill, tapped into her e-mail, pawed through her garbage - and then raided her office, her home and her underwear drawer, all in an effort to learn the identity of a source they say may have broken national security laws by leaking her a document outlining their case against Maher Arar.

# Hamilton Spectator reporter Ken Peters used confidential city documents to write an expose of a troubled nursing home. Ten years later he faced a possible jail term after a Superior court judge in a civil suit found him in contempt for refusing to reveal his sources. In the end Peters was ordered to pay $31,600 in court costs.

# Author and investigative reporter Stevie Cameron initially agreed to meet RCMP officers who were playing catch-up to her investigations of allegedly corrupt Canadian government officials. Nine years later the RCMP claimed in court that she was a confidential informant and it landed on the front pages of a national newspaper. The claim eclipsed the real story about government corruption and came close to destroying her reputation.

In a forum moderated by veteran journalist Peter Desbarats, this quartet of battle-hardened investigative reporters will quiz each other on the following questions:

1) Should an investigative reporter ever turn over evidence of a crime he/she uncovers? What principles govern that decision?
2) What should/must reporters know in order to best deal with the state when it comes calling?
3) Do journalists in Canada need a general shield law that protects them from having to reveal confidential sources?
4) In a free and open society, what kind of police/investigative journalist relationship serves the public interest best?

For more information or to arrange interviews with any of the panelists, please call Bill Dunphy - 905.526-3262 or e-mail at bill.dunphy@gmail.com

Poking the State With a Stick Enterprises is a joint effort of Bill Dunphy, Kimberley Noble and Jan Wong, and has nothing to do with their respective employers.