A Christmas miracle

A Christmas miracle r1 ... SUPPORT OUR WORK The Narwhal's masthead logo Haudenosaunee supporters block a forest service road in Gidimt'en territory near Houston, B.C., on Nov. 14, 2021.
Dear Narwhals,

We weren’t planning on sending out a newsletter on Christmas Eve, but then Coastal GasLink went ahead and dropped charges against photojournalist Amber Bracken and documentary filmmaker Michael Toledano.

Michael and Amber, who was on assignment for The Narwhal, were arrested and detained for three nights on civil contempt charges while reporting on militarized police raids on Wet’suwet’en territory in northwest B.C. on Nov. 19.

Their arrests drew international media attention and an outpouring of support from thousands of you who wrote letters to the federal public safety minister calling for an end to the illegal arrests of journalists. Hundreds more stepped up to contribute to our legal fight, ensuring we could obtain excellent legal counsel in a crucial press freedom battle — one that’s not over just yet.

It goes without saying: journalists must be able to report from within injunction zones, and really anywhere, without risking arrest. This isn’t just our opinion — it’s one also shared by Canada’s courts.

“I should never have been arrested or charged, let alone detained, in the first place,” Amber says. “I can’t get those days of my life and work back. Nothing in these proceedings provides any feedback to RCMP for their gross interference with journalists, so what’s stopping police from just doing it again?”

Not only did the RCMP seize the pair’s recording equipment (actions that prevented the public from witnessing police conduct during the raid where more than a dozen land defenders were also arrested), but our reporting also revealed a troubling fact: police were tracking both journalists in an active investigations database prior to their arrest.

The RCMP’s actions on Wet’suwet’en territory came despite our successful legal challenge of the police force’s violation of press freedoms this summer at Fairy Creek. The Narwhal, along with the Canadian Association of Journalists and a handful of other independent media organizations, fought against the RCMP’s excessive restrictions of journalists, which a judge ruled were in violation of the media’s special Charter rights. That legal challenge helped redefine the parameters of press freedom, especially within injunction zones, and importantly ensured the RCMP isn’t allowed to obstruct the rights of journalists with impunity.

These fights are incredibly important to the future of journalism in this country. And that’s why The Narwhal and other news organizations are exploring further legal avenues to hold the RCMP accountable and ensure arrests of journalists don’t continue happening.

You can go here to read more about the dropped charges against Amber and Michael.

Thank you for your continued support as we defend press freedom in Canada.

Take care and happy holidays,

Emma Gilchrist

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