CJFE Hopes for Positive Decision in Ken Peters case

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

CJFE hopes for a speedy and positive decision in Ken Peters' appeal case, heard yesterday (January 22, 2008) in Toronto.

CJFE is one of several interveners in the appeal of the contempt citation filed against Hamilton Spectator journalist Ken Peters on December 1, 2004, when he refused to reveal his source.

Lawyer and CJFE Board member John Norris, who is representing the organization in its intervention, says "it is vital that the court recognize the broader free expression issues in this case." CJFE believes that protection of a journalist's ability to maintain the confidentiality of his or her sources is an important tool in the gathering of news, especially in cases where wrongdoing is exposed.

The Ontario Court of Appeal reserved its decision yesterday, but CJFE hopes that there will be a speedy conclusion to this case in favour of Ken Peters.

Peters was fined $31,600 to compensate the parties to the lawsuit for the legal bills run up for the delay caused by his refusal to reveal the source. The conflict arose from a story that Peters worked on almost a decade ago. In 1995, Peters received documents about problems at a Hamilton nursing home. Allegations made against the nursing home subsequently prompted its operators to file a lawsuit against the City of Hamilton and Halton Region.

"If the ability to protect sources is weakened, it could cast a chill making it more and more difficult for journalists to find people willing to speak to them, and making journalists wary of taking on cases of public interest that may result in them being involved in lengthy and costly court battles," said former Board member, Paul Knox, speaking for CJFE. "Overall, there will be less information available to the public on important matters of public interest."

CJFE is encouraged by recent legal trends which appear to protect and promote the special role of the news media in a free society as recognized in the Charter. We hope that the resolution of this case will give renewed protection to journalists in their work.

Canadian Journalists for Free Expression (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. CJFE has a history of work on cases pertaining to media law and freedom of expression.