Canada: RSF warns of dangerous precedent in charges against journalist Brandi Morin

Reporters Without Borders (RSF) calls on the Edmonton prosecutors to drop all charges brought against journalist Brandi Morin ahead of her court appearance scheduled on February 16. RSF warns that the case will set a dangerous precedent for press freedom across Canada, under which journalists are punished for simply doing their jobs.

Update 3/1/24: After advocacy from RSF and other press freedom groups, charges against Morin, who received a legal support grant from RSF, were dropped. 

Police officers arrested freelance journalist Brandi Morin on January 10, while she was reporting on an Indigenous encampment, in Edmonton, the capital city of the Canadian province of Alberta. When police raided the encampment, Morin said she identified herself as a journalist and stated her right to be on public property and to report on matters of clear public interest. Despite Morin exercising her legal right to do her job, Edmonton Police ​​Sergeant Amber Maze arrested her and led her from the scene, according to Morin. The authorities subsequently charged Morin with obstructing an officer. If convicted, this charge could carry a penalty of up to two years imprisonment. Morin is scheduled to appear in court on Friday, February 16.

“It is bad enough that police arrested a journalist for doing her job, but it is outrageous that prosecutors would even consider pursuing the charges against Brandi Morin. These tactics are meant to intimidate independent reporters and this case is tantamount to criminalizing journalism. It will set a dangerous precedent for a country that otherwise ranks high globally on the RSF World Press Freedom Index.

Clayton Weimers
RSF USA Executive Director

RSF and a coalition of press freedom groups held a press conference on January 29 to call for the immediate dismissal of all charges. The consensus of media freedom experts and activists was clear: Morin must not be prosecuted for simply fulfilling her duties as a journalist and pursuing the public’s right to know.

Although arrests of journalists in Canada are rare, there have been previous incidents of police arresting reporters covering police actions and public demonstrations as a tactic to remove them from a scene, such as the 2021 arrests of award-winning photojournalist Amber Bracken and documentarian Michael Toledano while covering the construction of a controversial natural gas pipeline in British Columbia. These arrests are particularly common when journalists are covering Indigenous communities, even though Canadian courts have ruled that the police must allow media access to its enforcement activities. However, the decision to pursue charges after an arrest marks a ​​clear escalation. The Canadian authorities must not use intimidation tactics to prevent journalists like Morin from upholding their duty and their right to seek democratic accountability from powerful institutions like the Edmonton police force.

Brandi Morin is an award-winning Cree/Iroquois/French multimedia journalist from the Treaty 6 territory in Alberta, Canada. A recipient of the Edward R. Murrow Award for her feature reporting, Morin’s work has appeared in several news outlets, including National Geographic, Al Jazeera English, The Guardian, and The New York Times, among others. She covers issues of human rights and is well-known for her work on Indigenous rights. She is also the bestselling author of Our Voice of Fire: A Memoir of a Warrior Rising.

Canada is ranked 15th out of 180 countries on RSF’s 2023 World Press Freedom Index.

14/ 180
Score : 81.7
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