Journalists' association challenging RCMP in court over media restrictions at Fairy Creek logging blockade

·2 min read
Protesters in September 2020 at the so-called River Camp blocking the Granite Main road at kilometre seven north of Port Renfrew, B.C.   (Kieran Oudshoorn/CBC - image credit)
Protesters in September 2020 at the so-called River Camp blocking the Granite Main road at kilometre seven north of Port Renfrew, B.C. (Kieran Oudshoorn/CBC - image credit)

The Canadian Association of Journalists, along with a group of news organizations and press freedom groups, says it plans to take the RCMP to court over its decision to restrict media coverage at the Fairy Creek blockades.

Journalists from all over B.C. have been covering the demonstrations against the logging of old-growth trees near Port Renfrew.

The CAJ says it has documented reports from numerous journalists who have been refused entry through the broad use of exclusion zones to the area where enforcement is taking place.

"Over the past week, we've repeatedly seen the RCMP shift the goalposts on how it plans to allow journalists access in order to cover this important public interest story," said CAJ president Brent Jolly.

"Every day is a new day with new excuses from the RCMP about why access is limited. Enough is enough." he added.

In addition to the CAJ, the coalition includes Ricochet Media, The Narwhal, Capital Daily, Canada's National Observer, the Aboriginal Peoples Television Network (APTN), Canadian Journalists for Free Expression (CJFE), The Discourse and IndigiNews.

"The RCMP have been using broad exclusion zones to interfere with members of the media for at least eight years, across multiple provinces," said Ethan Cox, an editor with Ricochet Media.

The CAJ released a statement on May 18 that called on the courts to limit RCMP power when granting injunctions.

The coalition also sent a formal letter to the RCMP Tuesday that requests media be granted fair access when covering the demonstrations.

It says neither has been acknowledged.

Cox says restricting this access goes beyond the authority of the force and that he believes the public has the right to know what's going on.

The RCMP wouldn't comment directly on the CAJ complaint but spokesperson Cpl. Chris Mansea said he doesn't agree with the allegations.

"There have been no restrictions for the media, he said. I like to think we've been very forthcoming with inviting the media every day.

However, in its letter to the RCMP, the CAJ says that it's extremely concerned about the violations to press freedom it's alleging.

"We will be bringing an application to the B.C. Supreme Court to vary the injunction order to specifically set out these protections for the media and direct the RCMP to change its practices," the letter stated.