Defenders of press freedom are calling for the release of photojournalist Amber Bracken and documentary filmmaker Michael Toledano, who were arrested Friday at a resistance camp set up by opponents of the Coastal GasLink pipeline at a job west of Prince George, BC .
The RCMP confirmed on Sunday that the couple are still in custody, awaiting trial on Monday morning, along with 13 other people who were arrested on Friday.
The RCMP has acknowledged that Bracken and Toledano have identified themselves as independent journalists.
On Sunday, the Committee to Protect Journalists, a U.S.-based organization that promotes press freedom worldwide, issued a statement demanding her releaseof Bracken and Toledano. The Canadian Association of Journalists (CAJ) weighed in on Saturday, seeking their release along with their items and sights.
Peter Jacobsen of the Canadian Journalists for Free Expression said the courts had been “very clear … that journalists do not obey orders”.
Bracken, a photojournalist working for Narwal, won the aCAJ Award for her work in 2020 covering Wet’suwet’en conflict with Coastal GasLink. Toledano is a freelance filmmaker who has worked on a documentary on conflict and resistance to Coastal GasLink since 2019.
The rights of journalists are protected by statute
Brent Jolly, president of the Canadian Association of Journalists, called the RCMP’s recent actions “absolutely shameful.”
Journalists’ rights are guaranteed by the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, but Jolly says CAJ, along with a coalition of media outlets, had to take the RCMP to court to modify the order at the Fairy Creek blockade on Vancouver Island to provide access for journalists.
On October 8, BC Supreme Court Justice Douglas Thompson decided in their favor, stating that the RCMP exclusion zones in Fairy Creek had “seriously and substantially affected important freedoms within the order area, including the ability of individuals to move freely, and freedom of assembly and expression, including freedom of the press “.
Wet’suwet’en members set up a workplace resistance camp at Coastal GasLink on September 25, halting plans to drill a tunnel under the Wedzin Kwa or Morice River.
On November 14, the group informed Coastal GasLink that they would implement an expulsion notice issued on January 4, 2020 by the hereditary chiefs of the five Wet’suwet’en Nation clans.
Police said that upon arrival at the resistance camp on Friday, they read a copy of a notice of the BC Supreme Court order allowing the pipeline construction to move forward and warned those inside to leave several times, before entered by force and arrested.
“CONTENT WARNING: POLICE VIOLENCE.
A total of 29 people have been arrested so far along the Morice River Forest Service Road, south of Houston in the northern interior of BC.
The Coast GasLink pipeline, if completed, will stretch 670 kilometers across northern BC, transporting natural gas from near Dawson Creek east to Kitimat in the Pacific Ocean. The company has signed benefit agreements with 20 gang councils along the project route. But Wet’suwet’en’s hereditary leadership says gang councils have no authority over land beyond the reserves.
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