CCRA Should Never Have Seized Tapes: CJFE

Wednesday, March 12, 2003
Canadian Journalists for Free Expression (CJFE) welcomes today's announcement by the Canada Customs and Revenue Agency (CCRA) to release a shipment of anti-war video tapes it "detained" earlier this month. But CJFE remains concerned about the fact the tapes were seized in the first place. "The CCRA's involvement in vetting political material is a worrisome departure for the federal Agency," CJFE Executive Director Joel Ruimy said. "Canadians have the right to expect that the CCRA will not become the filter through which political debate is strained. The federal government should review CCRA operations to ensure the Agency does not become a political censor." The two-hour anti-war film, "What I've Learned About U.S. Foreign Policy," by American documentary producer Frank Dorrel, was seized by Canada Customs in early March. In a letter to the tape's importer, Global Outlook Magazine, the CCRA said it took the action because "they [the videos] may constitute obscenity or hate propaganda." The documentary features, among others, the late civil rights crusader Martin Luther King Jr. and actor Susan Sarandon. CJFE has reviewed the video and concluded that while it is critical of U.S. foreign policy, it clearly does not violate obscenity or hate laws. Much of the footage was drawn from previously broadcast news footage. Dorrel has also said he previously shipped more than 1,000 copies of the tape to Canada. CJFE is concerned that on the eve of a possible war in Iraq, the CCRA is acting in a way that could potentially block Canadians' access to as much information as possible from the widest possible number of sources. CJFE is an association of more than 400 journalists, editors, publishers, producers, students and others committed to preserving press freedom and freedom of expression in Canada and around the world. For more information, contact Joel Ruimy at (416) 515-9622 e-mail: [email protected]

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