16 October 2014
Proposed legislation aimed at protecting citizens from online crime was attacked by several press freedom organizations, arguing that it would threaten freedom of expression. PEN Canada in voicing its concern about Bill C-13 because if passed it “would provide telecom companies with criminal and civil immunity for disclosing subscriber information to government agencies,” thus voiding people’s right to privacy. Canadian Journalists for Free Expression (CJFE) joined the protest, saying that the bill’s contents were “chilling” and “a substantial threat to free expression.” What was seen as a serious challenge to Bill C-13 came on June 13 when the Supreme Court released its judgment in a case examining Internet service providers’ disclosure of basic subscriber information. The Court ruled in favor of protecting users’ privacy, which Open Media welcomed as a “huge win for Canadian privacy.” Another bill before the Parliament would amend current legislation with the objective of improving what is regarded as the current failing access to information system and increase government transparency. The government must be “open by default” and allow fewer exceptions from the Access to Information Act, the proposed amendment says. A third bill affecting the media was killed by the legislator who had proposed it, saying it had changed from its original intent during debate in Parliament. The bill’s wording would have forced the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (CBC) to disclose journalistic, creative and programming information, including the identity of its confidential sources, something not required of any other news media outlet. The Toronto Star newspaper and Canadian Broadcasting Corporation are arguing in federal court that the public has a right to know is being violated on an issue involving Omar Khadar, who had been tried by a war crimes tribunal at the Guantanamo Bay Naval Base in Cuba. Khadar, a Canadian citizen was detained in Afghanistan in 2002 at the age of 15, accused of throwing a grenade that killed a U.S. Army sergeant. He has since not been given an opportunity to speak to news media. Canadian journalists, who were targets of attacks while covering protests in earlier months, made a presentation in May before the Organization of American States (OAS) the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights denouncing their situation.