Monday, June 25, 2001Canadian Journalists for Free Expression is concerned over the seizure by Royal Canadian Mounted Police officers of the footage and other materials belonging to Aboriginal Peoples Television Network British Columbia correspondent Todd Lamirande. On June 24, in Sun Peaks, north of Kamloops, Lamirande was covering a story where the Native Youth Movement and some local First Nations people were protesting the development of a ski resort. There was a clash between the protesters and local supporters of the project. Lamirande videotaped part of the confrontation, which later turned violent. Afterwards, RCMP officers asked Lamirande for his taped footage. He refused politely. As he was driving away from the site of the demonstration to file his story, the RCMP pulled his car over. The police told him they were seizing the vehicle and all its contents including his TV news camera, videotapes, notes and personal effects. The police gave no reason to Lamirande for his detention nor for the seizure of the vehicle and its contents except, according to the APTN correspondent, "they suspect the videotapes have evidence of a crime on them." CJFE Executive Director Sharmini Peries called the incident "an affront" to maintaining the integrity of journalists' materials, adding that it displayed a disregard for the role of the media in society. "Todd Lamirande, simply by doing his job - by exercising his right to free expression - is being sought for the product of his work," Peries said. "More troubling, because his footage may be used in future criminal proceedings, both he and the network for which he works run the risk of being perceived as adjuncts of the state, which they are definitely not." The RCMP have since released Lamirande and handed over his vehicle and personal effects. However, they continue to hold on to the video footage. The APTN is currently seeking to get a court injunction to prevent use of the videotape. In the meantime, because that raw footage remains in state hands, the television network is unable to report on the protest. For further information, please contact CJFE, 489 College Street, Suite 403, Toronto, Ontario, M6G 1A5, Canada, tel: 416-515-9622, fax: 416-515-7879, e-mail: email@example.com.
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