It’s comforting to know that groups far and wide are coming to the support of the media who were roughed up and/or arrested during the G20 weekend.
The latest is a release issued in Vienna from the International Press Insitute, a global network of media executives, editors and journalists. The IPI Press Freedom Manager says journalists “have a right to cover such events, including any protests that accompany them, without interference or harassment from police”.
We at the Canadian Media Guild are asking members to tell us about what happened to them, to make sure that the whole story affecting media employees is heard, in all the right places. Julian Falconer and four journalists have filed complaints with the Office of the Independent Police Review Director in Toronto. That complaint is important. But it’s not all that should be done. If and when any other inquries are called, the way the police handled all members of the media (“mainstream” and independent alike) must be documented and included.
The Canadian Journalists for Free Expression is doing what it can to make sure what happened is properly documented. It’s doing a survey of journalists who believe “their freedom of expression was compromised by police/security personnel”.
Now that we’ve had almost a week to hear from people, it’s clear that the range of interference and harsh treatment directed at media workers was unprecedented. The cases of the independent journalists that Falconer is handling are the most publicized. But going largely unreported is the way the “mainstream” accredited employees were prevented from doing their jobs, in varying degrees. Read this account by Colin Perkel, long-time Canadian Press reporter who’s done several tours in Kandahar (and yes, at one point he was a CMG executive member). He tells of the police operation that trapped hundreds of regular citizens and media personnel at a city block (Queen-Spadina) for five hours on Sunday. What I had not heard before is the degree to which equipment owned by Canadian Press was ruined by this operation, as police kept these people trapped in a torrential downpour in an operation now known as “kettling”. I understand the cost to replace the damaged gear may be higher than $20,000.
Gear can be replaced, of course. It’s the disregard for professional news gathering during public events like these that’s cause for concern.