RCMP dispute photojournalist’s account of arrest while covering pipeline protest

RCMP dispute photojournalist's account of arrest while covering pipeline protest
Amber Bracken pauses during a news conference on Monday, February 13, 2023.

The RCMP say a photojournalist who is suing the force was not exempt from complying with a court injunction while reporting on protests over the Coastal GasLink pipeline that’s nearing completion in northern B.C.

In a response to a lawsuit filed by Amber Bracken and news organization The Narwhal, the Mounties say Bracken’s status as a journalist would not place her outside the scope of the injunction that prohibits interference with the pipeline.

The response filed with the B.C. Supreme Court last week alleges Bracken was “not engaged in apparent good faith newsgathering activities” and was instead “aiding or abetting” those opposed to the project ahead of her arrest in November 2021.

It says Bracken did not identify herself as a member of the media, a claim that’s disputed in the original lawsuit filed against the RCMP last February.

The civil claim says she was wrongfully arrested after identifying herself as a journalist with media credentials that were visibly attached to her camera gear.

SEE ALSO: 15 people charged with criminal contempt over pipeline protest, 10 others await fate

A subsequent court filing from Bracken and The Narwhal on Wednesday says the Mounties’ response “inaccurately collapses the distinction” between the journalistic purposes of her presence with the intentions of those protesting the pipeline.

Police were “recklessly indifferent” to Bracken’s status as a journalist, the reply says.

Bracken has worked on a freelance basis for The Canadian Press.

She and a documentary filmmaker were initially charged with civil contempt of court and conditionally released by a judge three days after their arrests, but the next month, court documents showed the charges would not be pursued.

Opposition among Wet’suwet’en hereditary chiefs to the 670-kilometre pipeline sparked rallies and rail blockades across Canada in 2020, while the elected council of the Wet’suwet’en First Nation and others nearby have agreed to the project.

An update posted by Coastal GasLink in late September said construction was nearly 95 per cent complete on the pipeline that’s set to transport natural gas from Dawson Creek in northeastern B.C. to a processing facility on the northern coast.

READ ALSO: Three arrested as RCMP enforce Fairy Creek Watershed injunction

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Oct. 12, 2023.

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