CAJ Expresses Concern Over Threats to Canadian Journalists

Ottawa Freedom Convoy Sign
Ottawa Freedom Convoy Sign

Journalists are not stenographers of those in power or those holding protest signs

THUNDER BAY – NEWS – Over the course of recent events, the Canadian Association of journalists (CAJ) have been expressing concerns over threats that Canadian journalists are experiencing in reporting the news.

The CAJ says that the organization is deeply concerned about the alarming rise in harassment and threats against journalists covering the Ottawa occupation protests and similar demonstrations across the country.

“We welcome thoughtful criticism and discussion of journalists’ work but threatening, harassing, physically intimidating, or throwing objects at journalists reporting on these protests has no place in a free country like Canada and is completely unacceptable,” says CAJ president Brent Jolly.

Over the course of the ‘Freedom Convoy’ reporters from a number of mainstream media outlets have been excluded from the press conferences hosted by the group.

In Thunder Bay journalists covering the approximately 500 vehicles were sworn at, yelled at, and had members of the ‘Freedom Convoy’ use bullhorns calling down a Global National video crew.

“Journalists are not stenographers of those in power or those holding protest signs,” Jolly said. “To think otherwise is a fundamental misinterpretation of the role of journalism in a democratic society.”

There is an irony that the group calling for freedom for all, is restricting the freedom of the press.

Earlier this week, the House of Commons adopted a motion, under unanimous consent, put forward by Bloc Québécois MP Martin Champoux that stated:

“That the house reaffirm the primordial and essential role of journalists in a democracy and deplore the attempts to intimidate them in recent days as part of their coverage of the events in Ottawa.”

Despite this symbolic show of support, attacks have escalated, including racist, antisemitic, misogynistic threats and hateful messages. Journalists in the field have frequently been unable to record an interview or news item without being interrupted, threatened, or assaulted.

The job of journalists is to responsibly tell stories and cover issues that matter to the public and hold officials and those in power accountable.

Peaceful Protest in Ottawa

Through the now 14 days that the ‘Freedom Convoy’ has been in the streets of downtown Ottawa, there are also instances where there has not been wide-spread news coverage.

Efforts to clear snow in the downtown have been done by supporters of the ‘Freedom Convoy’. There have been people offered meals – including the homeless in downtown Ottawa.

It is apparent that not all of the protestors are, or should be, lumped together in one solid ball.

That too is wrong. The ability of journalists to cover the story has been restricted in many cases. Simply put from a legal liability standpoint, newsroom directors are protecting their reporters.

Reporters who have seen, been attacked or accosted are less likely to go into the melee to try to present the side of the protestors.

The Canadian Association of Journalists is a professional organization with more than 1,200 members across Canada. The CAJ’s primary roles are public-interest advocacy work and professional development for its members.

SOURCES include: Canadian Association of Journalists

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