Police posing as journalists a charter breach

The Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms is a bill of rights entrenched in the Constitution of Canada. The Charter guarantees certain political rights to Canadian citizens and civil rights of everyone in Canada from the policies and actions of all areas and levels of government. It is designed to unify Canadians around a set of principles that embody those rights.

Police posing as journalists a charter breach

Postby Thomas » Mon May 11, 2015 2:28 pm

Court asked to find police posing as journalists a charter breach

TORONTO - Three media organizations are asking an Ontario court to declare that provincial police officers who pose as journalists are violating the Constitution.

They say the practice runs afoul of press freedoms guaranteed by the charter of rights.

The organizations say such impersonation puts working journalists in danger -- especially in tense situations such as protests.

They also say it will make it harder to cover stories because suspicious sources may not be willing to open up.

Ontario Provincial Police say such impersonation happens rarely and now requires specific approval from senior officials.

The justice hearing the case is wondering whether there is in fact a practice of officers pretending to be members of the media.

http://www.ctvnews.ca/canada/court-aske ... -1.2368635
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Cops posing as journalists breaches charter rights

Postby Thomas » Tue May 12, 2015 1:54 am

Cops posing as journalists breaches charter rights, media groups argue

TORONTO – Undercover police officers who pose as journalists for investigative purposes are violating the Constitution by having a chilling effect on freedom of the press, an Ontario court heard Monday.

In their application to Superior Court, three media organizations argue the deceptive practice could put working journalists at risk, especially in high-stress environments, by raising suspicion about who they are.

The practice can also make it harder to win the trust of important sources and therefore get key information that is in the public interest, they say.

“This is very destructive of everything our clients do,” media lawyer Philip Tunley told the court. “This chill is a real and substantial one.”

The media organizations — the CBC, Canadian Journalists for Free Expression, and RTDNA Canada — want the court to declare impersonation of journalists by Ontario Provincial Police a charter violation that can’t be justified.

Such a declaration, they say, would “begin to thaw the chilling effect” the practice has had on the public, sources of important news and information, and on journalists.

“A strong commitment to free expression requires nothing less,” they argue in their court filings.

The organizations cite three examples — some going back more than a decade — as proof provincial police engage in posing as members of the media to gather information as part of a criminal investigation and the targets are usually aboriginals or other vulnerable groups.

In one notorious case, two officers filmed protesters at Ipperwash provincial park in 1995 and, when asked who they worked for, named the fictitious United Press Associates. Police confirmed the deception years later at a public inquiry into the fatal police shooting of an aboriginal protester.

In another case, an officer keeping an eye on protesters during an aboriginal Day of Action on Tyendinaga Mohawk territory in 2007 admitted he had pretended to be part of the media, court heard.

“These officers intentionally and factually and undoubtedly did impersonate journalists,” Tunley said.

The lawyer cited affidavits from several professional journalists about how the police deception has compromised their ability to do their jobs.

In frequently testy exchanges, Justice Benjamin Glustein repeatedly challenged Tunley on whether it was fair to say these isolated examples constitute a police “practice.”

For their part, provincial police say such impersonation happens rarely.

In his submissions, Crown lawyer Hart Schwartz said no evidence exists of general public awareness that police might pose as journalists, or that “mere knowledge” of the tactic would prompt them to stay away from real reporters.

Any interference with the free flow of information has to be more than trivial, Schwartz said.

After a complaint from RTDNA — the group speaks for many Canadian broadcasters — police amended an internal policy to require senior officers to provide authorization before investigators pose as working media.

The policy, Tunley said, in fact proves existence of the “covert” practice — which he said is also used by RCMP and other police services.

“They intend to continue the practice,” Tunley said. “They want the authority to do it.”

The hearing continues Tuesday.

http://www.thestar.com/news/canada/2015 ... argue.html

http://www.therecord.com/news-story/561 ... er-breach/

http://www.bramptonguardian.com/news-st ... urt-urged/

http://www.680news.com/2015/05/11/media ... er-breach/
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A blow to press freedom

Postby Thomas » Sun Sep 13, 2015 1:52 pm

If a reporter impersonates a cop to get a story, someone’s going to jail and I can tell you it’s going to be the dipstick journo who’s going to be wearing orange.

If a cop impersonates a reporter to get the inside scoop on a native protest or to build a case against a criminal, well, okay then.

That’s the consensus of an appeals court judge who denied an application by media outlets to have courts declare such sneaky behaviour a violation of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms.


We learned two OPP officers posed as journalists during the ill-fated Ipperwash protest in 1995, an OPP officer posed as a reporter when activist Shawn Brant and others blockaded rail lines and Highway 401 during the 2007 Aboriginal Day of Action and another provincial officer posed as a writer to get details from a criminal in a murder investigation.

It’s all evidence of a deplorable abuse of the system of trust journalists and sources must develop in sensitive cases whereby the very safety of a journalist doing his or her job is at stake. In some cases, journalists have been threatened and put in harm’s way at some of these protests and the whiff of suspicion that one among us might be a cop could just tip a tense situation to one of violence, at worst, or prevent journalists from getting the story and doing their jobs.

During the court application, which was recently ruled upon by Ontario Superior Justice Benjamin Glustein, the media outlets including the CBC, Journalists for Free Expression and the body representing TV and radio news directors argued that such actions violate the Constitution by creating a chilling effect on freedom of the press. The deceptive practice, the journalists argued, could threaten their work because it might cause suspicion about who they really are. It could also make it more difficult for reporters to earn the trust of sources, meaning they might lose out on getting vital information in the public interest, the groups argued, it was reported in The Toronto Star.

“The case is about what impact this has on the public and sources for the media sources who are, by definition, in conflict with the law and reluctant to speak with police officers,” said Philip Tunley, the lawyer representing the media group.

In the Ipperwash case, two OPP officers working for the outfit they called “United Press Associates” video-taped protesters at Ipperwash Provincial Park in the incident that culminated in the shooting death by police of protester Dudley George.

In the case of the 2007 protest at Tyendinaga, your correspondent – who has covered his share of native demonstrations on the territory and is all too well-known to Brant and his confreres – was safely piloting a desk in the office as city editor.

But, our guys were on the scene in the midst of the the protest and they described it as one minute free-flowing and co-operative, the next tense and confrontational. Unbeknownst to them, one in their midst – and there was indeed a media horde there that day, as the country’s busiest highway and the main CN Rail line were blocked for long periods – was a police spy. We now know Julian Fantino was behind many the shenanigans that stirred up tension between protesters and police on this day, operating as a charge-in from HQ bull to take over the activities and even openly taunted Brant by cell phone that day, throwing gasoline on the fire that was mouldering in the protest.

It may well have been Cowboy Julian cooked up this idea of sending in a rogue cop/report, but there’s not been any proof of that and the cop who did the subterfuge testified he acted as a lone undercover wolf without authorization or knowledge of superiors that he was going into the jaws of the protest with a video camera.

Getting back to this past week’s court decision, to now know courts refuse to support journalists in pursuing our craft in a safe and productive manner, without suspicion that someone in the ranks may indeed by a cop in disguise, is more than troubling. It’s an outrage.

To the average Joe or Jane, it’s “Hey, quit your whining. Who do youse reporters think you are? If a cop can use a little bit of funny stuff to get the bad guys, who cares whose rights get trampled?”

I get that sentiment. We all do. But, if police expect they can move among us, as one of us in covering a situation that could get a lot of people hurt or killed, where’s the decency in that?

We know from the original revelation that cops were pretending to be reporters, back in 2007 at the trial for Brant, that the OPP used a spy journalist/cop to take video at Tyendinaga and on Highway 401.

Const. Steve Martell testified then that he pretended to be a journalist on the evening of June 28, 2007, and got so close to the barricades that he recognized some protesters’ faces.

“You were acting in an undercover capacity, as you’ve told us, and you had a video camera,” Brant’s defence lawyer, Peter Rosenthal, asked him during his appearance in a Napanee court. “What were you pretending to be?”

“I just pretended to be part of the media,” Martell replied.

Martell told the court it was his idea to pose as a cameraman and he did not discuss the plan with a superior officer.

When Rosenthal asked whether the OPP had any guidelines for undercover officers as to what roles they can or cannot play when they are undercover, Martell testified that officers are instructed only to refrain from illegal activity.

“So, as role-wise, there’s no real guidelines,” Brant’s lawyer said. “But isn’t there a concern that if officers pretend to be media, that might interfere with freedom of the press in some sense? Have you ever heard any such concern?” Rosenthal asked.

“No,” Martell answered.

Well, no, because, you know, hey, it’s just the media. Unfortunately, this is the kind of thing that damages relationships between not only protesters and the journalists who are tasked to move among them to report on a story, but between police and the journalists who often work closely with those very police agencies on a daily basis, most often in a co-operative fashion.

For the courts to offer no protection against such abuses in future, it spells a dark chapter for journalists who have to go into often dangerous, hair-trigger situations knowing that anyone among them could be the spark that sets things off on a very bad road.

That and the simple, stark fact that it’s an outrageous abuse of freedom of the press at its very core.

http://www.intelligencer.ca/2015/08/13/ ... ss-freedom
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Re: Police posing as journalists a charter breach

Postby Thomas » Sat Jan 16, 2016 4:12 am

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