Photograph courtesy of Fairy Creek Blockade Facebook Page
A journalist at the Fairy Creek logging protest site was detained by RCMP on Tuesday and the Canadian Association of Journalists (CAJ) is firing back.
A court order from Justice Thompson on Monday has stated that the so-called exclusion zones and the RCMP’s system for keeping out reporters should not be practiced.
However, on Tuesday, Colin Smith of the Victoria Buzz briefly had his two cameras and bag taken away and was detained in the back of a police van, even though he’d identified himself as a member of the media.
Ultimately, Smith was not charged, was released, and told to leave the site immediately. President of the Canadian Association of Journalists Brent Jolly says this is unacceptable.
“The ink was hardly dry on the decision before the RCMP made the decision to knowingly disregard Justice Thompson’s ruling,” says Jolly. “The utter contempt the RCMP has shown for the law, as it relates to the vital role journalists play in a free and democratic society, is both unacceptable and unjust.”
RCMP say that Monday’s order does not stop them from implementing a temporary exclusion zone or access control points around police while enforcing the injunction. They also say that they had asked Smith to move several times but he did not comply with police directives.
Jolly states that this is part of a larger issue in the relationship between RCMP and the media. The CAJ says that several reporters were deterred from taking photos and required them to stay far away from where police were engaging and arresting protestors.
“The harassment of journalists at the hands of the RCMP throughout the enforcement of this injunction has been wholly arbitrary and, more broadly, injurious to our shared respect for the rule of law,” Jolly says. “It appears that the decision issued by Justice Thompson has only served to embolden the actions of some RCMP officers in the field. These egregious abuses of power and the blatant disregard for the law will not be tolerated.”
Despite Monday’s order from Thompson protecting journalists, the CAJ is encouraging all journalists to exercise careful judgment while out in the field during enforcement operations.
Since enforcement began there have been over 600 arrests at the site.