On March 7, the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) announced that criminal charges had been formally filed against 28 individuals for their alleged involvement in incidents near the Muskrat Falls hydroelectric project in October 2016. Justin Brake, a reporter for The Independent, is among this group. He is currently facing charges of mischief exceeding $5,000 and disobeying a previous Supreme Court of Newfoundland and Labrador injunction prohibiting people from entering or blocking access to the site. He is next due to appear in court on April 11. Brake could face up to 10 years in prison if convicted.
“RSF strongly condems the charges brought against a journalist who was merely doing his job covering an environmental protest of interest to the Canadian people, said Margaux Ewen, Advocacy and Communications Director for RSF North America. It seems these legal proceedings are being used to intimidate journalists and prevent them from covering such events, which is the latest incident in a series of egregious press freedom violations in Canada."
RSF has joined a coalition of Canadian and American press freedom organizations in a letter led by local partner Canadian Journalists For Free Expression (CJFE).
Last October, RSF published a press release when it first learned of potential charges against Brake.
Canada ranks 18th out of 180 countries in RSF's 2016 World Press Freedom Index.