CJFE Dismayed at Reports of Free Expression Violations at G20 Summit Protests

Monday, June 28, 2010

(Toronto, June 28, 2010) Canadian Journalists for Free Expression (CJFE) is gravely concerned over numerous reports of free expression violations and the detention of journalists during the G20 Summit weekend and calls for a full review of the events and police response.

Free speech zones and massive security fences were set up in preparation for the June 26-27 Toronto summit. While the security fences held up, free speech appears to have fared poorly. Video footage, photographs and published reports paint a picture of legitimate public protest being suppressed, protesters being penned in and the use of excessive force against peaceful demonstrators in designated free speech zones.

CJFE is also disturbed by the treatment of news media workers covering the protests. According to several reports many were detained, charged and in a few cases attacked by police. Among them:

# Two National Post photographers Brett Gundlock and Colin O'Connor were arrested and charged;
# CTV News Channel producer Farzad Fatholahzadeh was detained;
# Freelance journalist Jesse Rosenfeld was beaten and arrested by police;
# Liem Vu, an intern with the National Post, and Lisan Jutras, a Globe and Mail journalist, were among those detained for four hours at Queen and Spadina;
# Real News journalist Jesse Freeston was punched in the face by a police officer;
# Torontoist journalist Wyndham Bettencourt-McCarthy was struck by a police officer with a baton;
# Video journalist Brandon Jourdan was thrown to the ground and beaten by police.

CJFE will be monitoring these cases and will update its list if more come to light. To our knowledge, all journalists have now been released.

"Based on the facts available to us at this time, we're very disturbed by what appears to be overly aggressive tactics directed both at protestors and the media," said CJFE President, Arnold Amber. "When a major disturbance occurs in Canada's largest city, the role of the journalist is to inform the public. All accredited journalists had been vetted by security officials. There is no reason for them to have been detained or attacked while doing their work."

In addition, there are reports that journalists on several occasions were stopped from covering the protests. Many journalists, who had procured the requisite press passes, making them easily identifiable to security forces, were forced to leave protest areas. Amber added, "We recognize the police have a tough job to do, but they must be held to a high standard."

CJFE calls upon the police to respond to questions from reporters about their treatment of journalists. Serious questions of public policy and civil liberties are raised by the number and diversity of reports of detainment and attacks against journalists. Merely urging individuals to file complaints about their treatment is an inadequate response from politically accountable security forces.

We support the numerous calls for an inquiry into police tactics and security arrangements for the summit, conducted openly with its conclusions made public. Any such inquiry must include a thorough examination of police treatment of journalists covering the events.