Wednesday, February 28, 2024

Canadian Association of Journalists urges RCMP to respect media rights after Victoria Buzz photographer arrested

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The Canadian Association of Journalists (CAJ) is urging the RCMP to respect media rights after a photographer representing Victoria Buzz was arrested on Tuesday morning.

In a media statement on Friday, the CAJ condemned the recent arrest and was dismayed by the actions of the RCMP.

“The ink was hardly dry on the decision before the RCMP made the decision to knowingly disregard Justice Thompson’s ruling,” said CAJ president Brent Jolly.

“The utter contempt the RCMP has shown for the law, as it relates to the vital role journalists play in a free and democratic society, is both unacceptable and unjust.”

According to the CAJ, several reporters have come to them with reports that the RCMP is deterring photographers from taking photos and requiring journalists to stay far away from where police are arresting protestors.

In May, the Canadian Association of Journalists (CAJ) challenged the RCMP in the BC Supreme Court over fair access for media after journalists were being restricted access at the old-growth blockades.

The incident in question occurred on Tuesday, August 10th, when Colin Smith, a photographer representing Victoria Buzz, was arrested after tensions grew near the main site and headquarters of old-growth logging protests in Fairy Creek near Port Renfrew.

Smith observed the extraction and proceeded to take photographs; it was after the last extraction that RCMP began to focus their efforts on vehicles blocking access to the area.

This is when Smith said tensions flared and he was arrested and taken to an on-site processing area.

After about an hour and fifteen minutes, Smith was freed, and most of his gear was returned to him, save a drone.

Sergeant Chris Manseau told Victoria Buzz that the RCMP stands by its decision to arrest Smith.

“We understand that an individual taking pictures among those about to be arrested (now known to be a photographer with Victoria Buzz, Colin Smith), did not move or comply with police directions, which were provided at least six times,” said Manseau.

“It is important to note that regardless of the individual’s intentions or occupation, listening and adhering to police direction during active enforcement is required.”

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