The Canadian Association of Journalists, along with a coalition of news organizations and press freedom groups, has won a lawsuit requiring the RCMP to give the media full access to the Fairy Creek blockades.
The judge ruled that such access must be granted unless there are genuine operational or security reasons restricting it.
“I am not satisfied that geographically extensive restricted areas and associated access controls were justified as reasonably necessary to give the police the space they need,” said Judge Douglas Thompson in the decision.
Journalists from across British Columbia have covered the demonstrations against the deforestation of old trees near Port Renfrew in recent months.
The group originally filed the complaint in May after receiving documented reports from numerous journalists that extensive use of restricted areas prevented them from entering the enforcement area.
“This is without question a turning point in the history of Canadian press freedom,” said CAJ Brent Jolly in a statement following the ruling.
In addition to the CAJ, the coalition included Ricochet Media, The Narwhal, Capital Daily, Canada’s National Observer, the Aboriginal Peoples Television Network, Canadian Journalists for Free Expression, The Discourse, and IndigiNews.
“The problem of the RCMP using wide restricted areas to shut journalists out and restrict media access has long been a thorn in the side of the media,” said Ethan Cox, editor at Ricochet Media.
Lawyers from the RCMP and the logging company Teal Jones rejected the press coalition’s motion. The RCMP argued that access to the media was reasonable, and Teal Jones said the press coalition had no power to intervene in the injunction proceedings.
Treated media fairly, says RCMP
When the injunction was filed, RCMP told CBC that they would not comment directly on the allegations, but they believed the media would be treated fairly at Fairy Creek.
“There were no restrictions on the media, I think we were very accommodating with the daily invitation from the media,” said spokesman Cpl. said Chris Manseau.
The CAJ looks forward to working with the RCMP.
“We hope that this latest defeat will lead the RCMP to review their approach to enabling journalists to do their jobs,” said Jolly.