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article imageElectronic access to courts denied to media in Quebec

By KJ Mullins     Jan 28, 2011 in World
Canadian journalists were disappointed with the decision today by the Supreme Court of Canada on "cameras in court-hallways."
Media organizations have been fighting to be allowed to film and record in areas of the courthouses outside of the courtroom and be able to broadcast the official audio recordings of court proceedings.
Both requests have been denied by the Supreme Court of Canada.
In 2004 the Quebec Supreme Court limited media from reporting from the court with electronic means and that text was the only way to convey information to the public. CBC and other media groups appealed that ruling that was upheld today.
The Court has justified the limitations of the media so that "the serenity of hearings" claiming that the "fair administration of justice is necessarily dependent on maintaining order and decorum in and near courtrooms and on protecting the privacy of litigants appearing before the courts."
Peter Jacobsen, a lawyer and member of CJFE's board said that those views are disappointing. "The view of the Supreme Court of Canada that journalist activities in the courthouse could somehow impinge on the judicial process seems to contradict the approach we take in public inquiries where witnesses are often called to testify in difficult situations as well."
Some of Canada's leading journalism groups expressed their disappointment about today's rulings.
The Canadian Association of Journalists President Mary Agnes Welch said in a press release, "We recognize the need to protect the court's decorum and the fair administration of justice, but making courts as open and transparent as possible ultimately does just that. Instead of blanket rules, the Supreme Court could have advocated for more flexibility, such as publication bans tailored to a specific case."
"We believe this decision is a setback to the media's ability to gather news about what takes place in the courts," said CJFE President Arnold Amber in a press release. "Courts are public institutions and operate in Canada on the open court principle - but this ruling makes it more difficult for the public to find out what goes on inside those public institutions."
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