Canada

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The past few months have seen Canadians looking back at unresolved press freedom cases, welcoming the return of a kidnapped journalist abroad and fearing the fate of two women who remain missing. As well, several landmark cases remaining before the courts hold promise of national implications in the months ahead. On Nov. 18, Canadians remembered Tara Singh Hayer, killed a decade ago. Hayer, whose death remains a mystery, was the publisher of the Indo-Canadian Times when he was shot at home in British Columbia in 1998. Though the circumstances of Hayer's homicide are not officially known, most feel certain that his investigative work into the bombing of a 1985 Air India flight made him a target of violence. The Canadian Journalists for Free Expression have called upon the Royal Canadian Mounted Police to resolve the details of the case. In February 2009 Canadian-Egyptian journalist Heba Aly was expelled from Sudan. Aly was investigating Sudan's arms-manufacturing industry while waiting for her press accreditation to be processed. In the course of her research she was questioned by Sudan's national security agency and then ordered to leave the country on grounds of immigration violations and engaging in activity that could "harm Sudan's National Security." Aly has been questioned by Sudanese officials in the past. In December she was detained when she left Khartoum to return to Canada for Christmas. Officials searched her computer and notes and deleted digital images on her camera. In October 2008 while on assignment in Afghanistan, Canadian journalist Mellissa Fung and her cameraman were kidnapped near Kabul. Fung was released on Nov. 8 and Prime Minister Stephen Harper confirmed that no ransom was paid. Fung's return was overshadowed by two other cases that remain unresolved. While working on a documentary for Al Jazeera, Canadian journalist Khadija Abdul Qahaar, also known as Beverley Giesbrecht, was kidnapped on Nov. 11 in Northern Pakistan. In a video released Feb. 23, Qahaar said she was being held by the Taliban and an English newspaper in Pakistan, The News International, has claimed her kidnappers are demanding a ransom of $150,000 and the release of prisoners in an Afghan jail. Also missing is Canadian journalist Amanda Lindhout, who was kidnapped on Aug. 23 while working in Somalia. Kidnappers had demanded US$2.5 million by Oct. 28 but reduced that amount to US$100,000 on Jan. 23. Lindhout, who was working for France 24 television station, was working on a story about refugees at the time of her abduction. The Canadian Association of Journalists has called on Prime Minister Stephen Harper to renew efforts to find the missing women. There were also numerous legal challenges this year. In February the Supreme Court heard arguments in the case of Cusson v. Quan (Ottawa Citizen). There is hope that this case will end with the creation of a new Canadian defence law based on responsible journalism in the public interest, a defence already adopted by the Court of Appeal for Ontario. In the National Post v. The Queen case, lawyers are fighting to have the Supreme Court recognize that confidential sources are crucial to reporting in the public interest. As well, the organization of Canadian Journalists for Free Expression is intervening in the case of a university professor, Amir Attaran, who is fighting for the release of human rights reports about the treatment of detainees in Afghanistan. "Journalists rely on the Access to Information Act to gain access to government information in order to provide the public with information, commentary, and analysis of government policy and operations," says the organization. "Without the ability to request and receive information, they would be unable to perform this important public interest function."

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