CJFE concerned that journalists are being used as arm of police investigations

Wednesday, January 25, 2006
Canadian Journalists for Free Expression (CJFE) is concerned about the application in Canada of a new provision to force a journalist to hand over his notes to be used in a police investigation. Hamilton police have asked reporter Bill Dunphy who writes for The Hamilton Spectator, to turn over his interviews with drug dealer, Paul Gravelle. Police are asking for the information to assist in their investigation of a 1998 murder. Andre Gravelle, Paul's brother, is charged in the murder. The new Criminal Code Provision called a 'production order', came into effect on September 15, 2004, and allows a judge to compel a person to produce documents or data relevant to the commission of an offence. Failure to comply is punishable by a fine of up to $250,000 and/or up to six months in jail. Former CJFE Board member and lawyer for The Hamilton Spectator, Brian Rogers finds the actions of the police objectionable, saying, "It's dangerous, because it's all too easy to look to journalists as a source for information." He adds that a journalist's job is to publish their information, which makes them an "easy and attractive target." In December 2004 another Hamilton Spectator journalist, Ken Peters was fined more that $30,000 for refusing to reveal a confidential source but was saved from imprisonment when his source came forward. Peters was fortunate that he did not face jail time for his work. Paul Knox, Chair of CJFE's Canadian Issues committee, is concerned at these recent efforts to turn journalists into a second arm of the police. "All of these attempts to use information gathered by journalists in the course of their work will inevitably have a chilling effect on their ability to keep the public informed." The case is set to return to court in the next few weeks. 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 send an e-mail.

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