March 16, 2020
The Royal Canadian Mounted Police
73 Leikin Drive
Ottawa, ON K1A 0R2
Sent via email
Dear Commissioner Lucki,
We at the Committee to Protect Journalists, an independent press freedom organization, write to express our concern at the treatment of journalists covering protests against the construction of a gas pipeline through Wet’suwet’en territory, and the arrest of at least one of these journalists. Rather than threatening journalists, we urge you to allow them to do their job and report freely on matters of public interest.
On February 24, filmmaker Melissa Cox was arrested while documenting the blockade on a train track near New Hazelton, British Columbia. Separately, several journalists have been threatened with arrest for covering the removal of protesters by police following the Royal Canadian Mounted Police’s February 6 announcement that it would begin enforcing a court-ordered injunction against people interfering with construction around the Coastal GasLink project. Other reporters, including Jerome Turner, were detained for long periods of time by police, preventing them from covering events.
Canada has long been a defender of journalists’ rights, and an ally for press freedom organizations. As a member of the Media Freedom Coalition, your country plays a key role in setting standards for how a free press should function in a democracy. When the media is threatened in Canada, it taints the country’s record on press freedom, and serves as a poor example to the rest of the world.
This fall, Canada will host the Global Conference for Media Freedom. We hope that ahead of this important event, you refrain from charging Melissa Cox during her April 24 hearing and make clear that critical reporting does not carry a legal penalty. We also urge you to allow reporters to cover matters of public interest without fear of retaliation.
Committee to Protect Journalists
Member, MFC Advisory Network