A coalition of news organizations and press freedom groups, including the Canadian Association of Journalists, announced Wednesday that they plan to challenge the RCMP’s restrictions on media access at Fairy Creek watershed in court.
The coalition includes the Canadian Association of Journalists (CAJ), Canadian Journalists for Free Expression (CJFE), the Aboriginal Peoples Television Network (APTN), National Observer, The Narwhal, Capital Daily, Ricochet Media, The Discourse, and IndigiNews.
“Over the past week, we’ve repeatedly seen the RCMP shift the goal posts on how it plans to allow journalists access in order to cover this important public interest story,” said Brent Jolly, CAJ president, in a statement.
The B.C. Supreme Court on April 1 granted an injunction to Teal-Jones Group following weeks of blockades by protesters and activists seeking to prevent the company from conducting old-growth logging in the Fairy Creek watershed.
However, the BC RCMP only started enforcing the injunction on May 17 and has set up a number of checkpoints leading to the Fairy Creek watershed in an effort to control and restrict access.
Media are allowed to observe enforcement of the injunction — and subsequent protests — although access is tightly controlled and journalists are required to register with the RCMP.
Since enforcement began, over 112 individuals have been arrested — the majority of whom were arrested for breaching the injunction — including a journalist who was not on the RCMP’s list of accredited media.
According to the CAJ, the RCMP has denied journalists entry into the area of enforcement through a “broad use” of exclusion zones and whenever access is granted, journalists are restricted in ways that prevent them from doing their job.
“Every day is a new day with new excuses from the RCMP about why access is limited. Enough is enough,” said Jolly.
The announcement comes less than a week after the CAJ called on the court system to limit the RCMP’s power when granting injunctions and less than 24 hours after they sent a letter to the RCMP requesting that media be provided fair access to the Fairy Creek watershed.
“Journalists are not participants in the protests, or advocates for the protesters against whom the injunction is being enforced. It is not our intention to interfere with police operations in lawful execution of a court order. Our role is to serve democracy by documenting activities and conveying that information to the public,” the letter reads.