Top marks for press freedom leadership abroad but room for improvement at home
Canada continues to demonstrate a strong commitment to international press freedom protections and practices. In the context of its leadership role in the Media Freedom Coalition - a partnership of countries working together to advocate for and support media freedom as well as the safety of members of the press - Canada, together with Botswana, co-hosted the second annual Global Conference for Media Freedom in November 2020. In recognition of the ever-evolving challenges posed by freedom of expression in the digital realm, Canada also took the lead in proposing a new United Nations Human Rights Council resolution on the matter in 2020, and committed $1 million towards Unesco’s Global Media Defence Fund.
On the domestic front, Canadian officials deserve high marks for demonstrating strong leadership when it comes to ensuring freedom of expression and the press. The government has publicly acknowledged that “media freedom remains an important part of democratic societies and essential to the protection of human rights and fundamental freedoms.” Ottawa also recognizes that “people need free media to provide them with accurate information and informed analysis to hold governments to account.” This was, more than ever, the case in 2020 because of the Covid-19 pandemic.
However, some progress remains to be achieved, particularly with regard to press coverage involving the rights of indigenous peoples and land disputes. A 2019 court ruling stipulated that special considerations should be granted to journalists reporting on such conflicts. Regardless, federal authorities went ahead and pressed charges against three members of the media in 2020. Thus, it is incumbent upon law and policy makers to uphold Canada’s positive track record on civil liberties and human rights, including statutory protections - also known as “shield laws” - for journalistic sources, as well as ensure that members of the media are able to report on the plight of indigineous communities without fear of prosecution.
16 in 2020
15.29 in 2020