Canadian press gag? Sorry aboot that

Answer: “A clean United States.” “Like us, but polite.”

Question: What are two ways Canada often is described.

Another way I wish I could describe it, but can’t, is “Having freedom of the press.”

Anyone who thinks our neighbors live in a society almost identical to ours — except for the socialized medicine and the French-speaking thing — needs to think again. Canada is a place where the federal government can issue a sweeping ban on what its media can and cannot report.

The topic pops up from time to time, usually in matters deemed national security or in attempts to protect the rights of accused groups. However, the latest instance is a court-ordered prohibition on reporting on the murder of eight-year-old Victoria Stafford (above). The press is following the order, but not quietly, luckily for fans of press freedom. Some front-page editorials have been lambasting the gag order.

Iain MacKinnon, a lawyer for several media organizations covering the case, said, “It’s unusual in its scope and how broad it is and how much it covers.”

The girl disappeared 13 months ago after leaving her school in Woodstock, Ontario. Her remains were found three months later. One of the suspects charged in her death was scheduled to appear in court last Friday facing a first-degree murder charge. The ban issued by Judge Dougald McDermid prevents all media from saying anything else about the proceedings.

One newspaper had a front-page editorial had  blacked-out sections where details of what happened in court on Friday would have been written.

To add to the heavy-handed judicial ruling, even publishing the reason the ban is being imposed is not allowed to be published.

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About Bill Dowd

Webmaster/social media coordinator for the Southern Rensselaer County NY Rotary Club.

Posted on May 3, 2010, in Governance, Media. Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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