05 March 2015


In a relatively quiet period for press freedom issues opposition grew to a government piece of proposed legislation, Bill C-51, which proposes unprecedented new powers for the country’s security agencies. Several freedom of expression organizations railed against the bill, with Open Media for example declaring that if enacted it would “criminalize free speech”. In what they said was a response to an increasing chill on free expression several groups – among them PEN Canada, Canadian Civil Liberties Association and Canadian Journalists for Free Expression (CJFE) – launched Censorship Tracker, a mapping tool allowing the public to report cases of censorship and incidents of limitation of freedom of expression so as to monitor such violations. Journalists were among those invited to use the tool. The importance of press freedom was seen to be highlighted in the coverage of an October 2014 shooting on Parliament Hill in Ottawa. Reporters covering the event said they were treated fairly by police, not asked to stop filming or taking pictures, and thus were able to do their jobs unhindered, the CJFE reported. A journalist in Halton, Canada, who had come there after escaping threats and violence in his native Pakistan, Mohsin Abbas, said he faced further threats to his and his family in his new hometown after writing an op-ed piece called “How Pakistani candidates embarrass us in Canadian polls.” He had spent a year at the Hamilton Spectator newspaper under a program to give foreign-trained journalists Canadian experience. In another Hamilton Spectator-related issue the paper in November published a 32-page exclusive story concerning the 1983 murder of a mobster and a more than 16-year fight for information withheld by the police. The story raised “troubling questions about police, justice and freedom of information,” the organization IFEX said. The Halifax, Nova Scotia, newspaper Chronicle Herald in November broke a court-ordered ban on publishing the name of a rape victim, made under terms of Canada’s child-pornography laws. It said it did so because it believed it was in the pubic interest to act this way given an already “widespread recognition” of the name of the young woman, whose photo was published in the paper’s front page. PEN Canada issued a report on February 12 welcoming the release from prison in Cairo of Egyptian-Canadian journalist Mohamed Fahmy and called on Egypt’s authorities to drop all charges against him and two other Al-Jazeera correspondents also conditionally freed.