Last Updated: Wednesday, 20 August 2014, 09:38 GMT

Freedom of the Press - Canada (2007)

Publisher Freedom House
Publication Date 2 May 2007
Cite as Freedom House, Freedom of the Press - Canada (2007), 2 May 2007, available at: http://www.refworld.org/docid/478cd50c1e.html [accessed 20 August 2014]
DisclaimerThis is not a UNHCR publication. UNHCR is not responsible for, nor does it necessarily endorse, its content. Any views expressed are solely those of the author or publisher and do not necessarily reflect those of UNHCR, the United Nations or its Member States.

Status: Free
Legal Environment: 3 (of 30)
Political Environment: 8 (of 40)
Economic Environment: 6 (of 30)
Total Score: 17 (of 100)
(Lower scores = freer)

Canada's constitution of 1982 provides protection for freedom of expression, including freedom of the press. Defamatory or blasphemous libel remains a criminal offense under the federal criminal code. Legislation on access to information guarantees journalists' right to information, but in practice access can be hindered by bureaucratic delays, government interference, and numerous exemptions allowing government officials to reject requests. Although a 2006 accountability bill has expanded the number of government entities covered by information laws, the bill has been criticized for including several loopholes that will allow officials to decline information requests. In October 2006, a superior court judge struck down aspects of the Security and Information Act. The act had prohibited unauthorized communication and possession of sensitive government documents; anyone found guilty of providing, receiving, or hearing "secret" information could be punished with up to 14 years in prison. The court deemed that the law was "vague, overbroad, and open to misuse" and in violation of the press freedom guarantee in the Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

Journalists in Canada are generally free from violence or harassment. The only murder of a journalist as a result of their work occurred in 1998, when Tara Singh Hayer was shot and killed, most likely as a result of his investigative work into the 1985 Air India bombing. His murder remains unsolved. Under a 2004 law reporters can be forced to present documents to the police if deemed vital for a criminal case. In February 2006, Hamilton Spectator journalist Bill Dunphy was ordered to hand over notes of an interview related to a murder case. Dunphy appealed the order, however, and the Superior Court of Justice found in his favor. In 2004, another reporter for the Hamilton Spectator, Ken Peters, refused to comply with a police order to give up a confidential source. Although the source came forward independently, Peters was found to be in contempt of court and fined C$31,600. His case is currently under appeal. Derek Finkle, the author of a 1998 book relating to the recently re-opened Robert Baltovich murder case, was also ordered to turn over his research materials in 2006. In February, two writers for the Canadian Medical Journal were fired after publishing a controversial article regarding the emergency contraceptive drug known as Plan B. The majority of the editorial board resigned shortly after, alleging editorial interference by the journal's owners, the Canadian Medical Association.

Both print and broadcast media, which include the public Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (CBC), are generally free to express diverse views. The CBC was initially established in the 1930s to counter the growing influence of American radio. Now it broadcasts in French and English and provides television and radio services for indigenous peoples in the north. Broadcasting rules stipulate that 30-35 percent of material must be Canadian. Nonetheless, the extent of media concentration and the influence of powerful media conglomerates such as CanWest Global Communications continue to limit media pluralism. The internet is generally unrestricted and is used by roughly 22 million Canadians. In a positive move, in 2006 the Supreme Court refused to hear the case of Cheickh Bangoura, who had brought a libel case against the U.S.-based Washington Post for a report published on the internet accusing Bangoura of improprieties while serving with the UN in Kenya.

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