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Victory! Media coalition wins court fight with RCMP | Ricochet – Ricochet Media



This morning a B.C. Superior Court judge ruled that the RCMP must allow media access to enforcement activities in the Fairy Creek injunction zone, and that such access should not be restricted unless there is a bona fide operational reason to do so.

The decision came in response to an application from a coalition of media groups, including Ricochet, who asked the court to add a media access clause to the Fairy Creek injunction order after months of police restrictions on journalists.

“I exercise my discretion to make the order sought by the media consortium,” explained Justice Douglas Thompson in his oral remarks, after noting that his full written reasons would be released in the weeks to come, “on the basis that in making operational decisions and exercising its discretion surrounding the removal and arrest of persons violating the order, the RCMP will be reminded by the presence of this additional language to keep in mind the media’s special role in a free and democratic society, and the necessity of avoiding undue and unnecessary interference with the journalistic function.”

The ruling, which follows a two-day hearing last week in Nanaimo, is a significant victory for press freedom in Canada. Although it does not compel the RCMP to change their policies, it is a warning from the court that the rights of journalists must be respected. The court has made clear that if the RCMP continue to fail in this duty, it will not hesitate to intervene.

The force only allowed media access under threat of legal action from media outlets, and the access they have provided has consisted of stage-managed media tours and threats of arrest for anyone who steps out of line.

An application from members of the public to reject restrictions on any person who wants to enter the injunction zone, which was heard at the same time as the media application, was not adopted as written because the wording of the proposed addition was unclear, but the judge noted that “there is substantial merit to the public access application” and said he was “not satisfied that geographically extensive exclusion zones, and associated access checkpoints, have been justified as reasonably necessary in order to give the police the space they need.”

Clarity on the court’s decision in regards to the public access application is expected when the written reasons come out.

“The RCMP have now been told by courts in two provinces, as well as their own oversight body, that their approach to restricting media access in injunction zones is inadequate and unlawful,” said Brent Jolly, president of the Canadian Association of Journalists, which also joined the court application. “We hope the police force will take this defeat as an opportunity to sit down with media groups and better understand our rights and needs.”

The decision comes on the same day that the Toronto Police Service barred media from the site of an injunction enforcement operation against a tent encampment in a city park, citing safety concerns, and arrested a Canadian Press photojournalist for attempting to cover the event.

That these unconstitutional RCMP restrictions on media access are now being copied by other police forces is gravely concerning, and underlines the national significance of this ruling.

For several years, the RCMP have been using injunction orders to establish broad exclusion zones around blockades and other protests in remote locations. These exclusion zones have been applied to journalists as well as the public, and have been condemned by most major international press freedom groups as well as human rights and civil liberties associations.

“The tactics the RCMP have been using to control media — including forcing them to be chaperoned at all times by a police officer and taking them on media tours where they are held in pens far from the action and threatened with arrest if they move — are comparable to an authoritarian regime,” said Derrick O’Keefe, an editor with Ricochet Media. “Quite simply, a controlled press is not a free press. The courts have once again made this point clear to the RCMP, and we’ll have to wait and see if they are listening.”

One of the most well-known examples of this police control is the case of journalist Justin Brake, who was charged both criminally and civilly for violating an injunction in 2016 when he followed a group of protesters onto private property. All charges against Brake were eventually dismissed, and the judge in his case set a precedent that injunctions cannot be used to exclude members of the media.

The RCMP lawyer argued that secret arrests from which media were excluded were permissible, and also justified restrictions on media access by referring to potential safety risks if a media vehicle were to get a flat tire.

But the tactic was used on Wet’suwet’en territory last year during a conflict over the construction of a new pipeline, when journalists from multiple outlets were detained and obstructed from reporting. The RCMP’s own watchdog, the Civilian Review and Complaints Commission, revealed that they had delivered a report to the force over a year earlier advising that broad exclusion zones were beyond police authority and unlawful, particularly as applied to working journalists.

Despite a clear court precedent and a rebuke from their own watchdog, the RCMP once again established a broad exclusion zone and denied journalists access to the area as they prepared to enforce the Fairy Creek injunction. As happened at Wet’suwet’en, the force only allowed media access under threat of legal action from media outlets, and the access they have provided has consisted of stage-managed media tours and threats of arrest for anyone who steps out of line.

In two days of oral arguments, lawyers for the RCMP and logging company Teal-Jones, which intervened in the case, argued that the media outlets did not have standing to apply to modify the injunction, that the remedy sought was unnecessary because the law already provided for media rights and that the RCMP was providing perfectly adequate access to journalists.

The RCMP lawyer argued that secret arrests from which media were excluded were permissible, and also justified restrictions on media access by referring to potential safety risks if a media vehicle were to get a flat tire.

Without intervention, police forces across this country could simply exclude the media from any enforcement activities they would prefer not be covered.

Despite being supported by hundreds of pages of pleadings and affidavits and a large team of government lawyers, these arguments proved unconvincing.

Sean Hern, QC, the lawyer representing the coalition of press groups, argued that the media organizations had sought to engage in a dialogue with the force about the unacceptable elements of the restrictions, and even offered various solutions, only to be rebuffed by the RCMP in a letter claiming the police were too busy to discuss such matters.

This disregard for the rights and needs of professional journalists had led to dozens of documented incidents where reporters were barred from covering events, or where their ability to cover events was substantially compromised by excessive RCMP restrictions.

This ruling is not an order, and it does not compel the RCMP to take specific actions to remedy their failures. Instead, it is a direction from the court that the police must do a better job of ensuring access for journalists.

The members of the coalition — which include the Canadian Association of Journalists, Ricochet Media, Capital Daily Victoria, The Narwhal, Canada’s National Observer, APTN News, The Discourse, Indiginews and Canadian Journalists for Free Expression — hope that the police force will now sit down to discuss media concerns and make concessions to ensure that media rights are respected.

If they fail to do so, and continue to obstruct and interfere with journalists, then media groups will have to return to court to compel the RCMP to comply.

Nevertheless, this decision represents a major victory for press freedom in Canada. The RCMP can now either remedy their failures or defy the court’s direction and invite a subsequent judgement. In either case, it seems unlikely that these draconian restrictions on the free press will survive.

Other police forces, including the Ontario Provincial Police and now the Toronto Police Service, have already begun to copy the RCMP tactics, using the same nebulous claims about safety to justify their actions.

Without intervention, police forces across this country could simply exclude the media from any enforcement activities they would prefer not be covered. This would have catastrophic implications not only for press freedom, but for the public’s right to know.

This is why today’s ruling is so crucial, and why such a large coalition of press groups invested the time and resources necessary to challenge the police in court.

“We hope that today’s ruling resolves these issues,” said Jolly. “But if it does not, we are prepared to pursue whatever actions are necessary to safeguard media access and press freedom in Canada. This morning a journalist was arrested for doing his job in Toronto. That simply can’t happen in a free and democratic society.”

The full text of the clause that the judge has ordered be added to the injunction is as follows.

“In exercising their enforcement discretion under this Order, the Police will not impede, curtail, delay, or interfere with access to any part of the Injunction Area by members of the media who are attempting to gather information and obtain photographic and video evidence for their respective publications, except where there is a bona fide Police operational rationale that requires it, and in those instances, as minimally as possible in recognition of the rights and vital role of the media in Canadian society.”

Editors’ note: This story was updated to include the quotes from Judge Thompson, and details about the public access application.

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How HuffPost Canada's digital impact and untimely demise changed Canadian news media – Poynter



Mel Woods found out they no longer had a job from a group chat.

The Vancouver-based journalist was working as HuffPost Canada’s only worker in the western region of the country, covering viral and trending stories as an associate editor, up until the outlet’s unceremonious March 2021 demise. BuzzFeed bought HuffPost in November 2019 and, just two weeks after the newsroom’s decision to unionize, closed HuffPost Canada and left 23 staff without their jobs.

It’s another data point in a long list of recent closures and contractions on the Canadian media landscape.

Many of those laid off have landed positions elsewhere. Woods now plies their trade at Xtra — a Toronto-based outlet focused on 2SLGBTQ+ perspectives — and others have surfaced as staff at The New York Times, CBC and Politico, among others. Some left for public relations gigs, and others are currently working as freelancers. The announcement of the closure just one week from the meeting, Woods said, left some staff scrambling.

“For somebody who was suddenly unemployed, it was a very, very busy week because we had to sort out what happened and when, and what the unionization played into it, what severance played into it and why it had happened because it caught all of us by surprise,” Woods said.

HuffPost’s union, CWA Canada, had never faced a closure in its history. President Martin O’Hanlon said the ceasing of operations points to BuzzFeed’s lack of understanding of the Canadian media landscape.

“I don’t think it says a lot about the Canadian media industry, per se, I think it says a lot about BuzzFeed. And I think it tells you that BuzzFeed is just interested in America, and in making as much profit as possible,” O’Hanlon said. “… They don’t give a damn about Canadian journalism is the bottom line.”

In an emailed statement, a spokesperson for BuzzFeed said: “BuzzFeed announced a restructuring of HuffPost in March in order to break even this year and fast-track its path to profitability. As part of these changes, we made the difficult decision to close HuffPost’s Canada and Quebec operations. The incredibly talented teams there have made enormous contributions to the political and news ecosystems in Canada — from extensive, award-winning coverage of the federal election, to relentless reporting on how COVID-19 exacerbated a long-term care crisis, and a powerful investigation of how mental illness is responded to as a crime. We know this decision was painful for everyone affected, but we are confident that these journalists will continue to do powerful and impactful reporting in the years to come. We continue to do everything we can to ensure their transition is a smooth one.”

The announcement certainly wasn’t easy on the staff of HuffPost Canada. The all-hands meeting in which the closure was announced, which Woods said was predicted within the staff to be announcing a new U.S. editor-in-chief, had the password “spring is here.”

But the closing of HuffPost Canada is more than another sad story to add to the layoffs seen at other newsrooms in Canada, most publicly at Global and Postmedia. HuffPost’s Canada’s coverage won awards posthumously. Woods won an award from RTDNA Canada for examining gender and transphobia more than two months after the outlet officially closed.

The skill and success of the staff was partially due to the culture and the diversity of the newsroom, Woods said.

“The fact of how quickly folks have been snapped up by other places is proof of the respect that was had for our newsroom,” Woods said. “We kind of sprinkled our seeds everywhere.”

Woods likened the HuffPost style that they have taken to Xtra as “serving (readers) their vegetables, but in a good way,” through a metrics and service journalism-focused approach.

Some of those seeds appear to have taken root elsewhere. New approaches to digital journalism in Canada, including what service looks like to staff and readers, is a common thread in discussions with Canadian newsroom leaders.

The Canadian Association of Journalists recently completed data collection for their first diversity survey, modeling their work after the News Leaders Association in the U.S. Meanwhile, CBC made the decision to turn off all Facebook comments on news stories for a month beginning in mid-June, which editor-in-chief Brodie Fenlon attributed to a data-gathering exercise mixed with a want to protect the mental health of journalists. It is a policy that they have since extended to the end of October.

HuffPost Canada’s digital impact, and its dismantling, points toward a future for Canadian journalism that must consider the health of its readers and staff while acknowledging the changing needs of digital media.

CBC’s decision to direct the tenets of service journalism toward its own staff hints toward an industry that is understanding (at a glacial pace) just how worn down it is and how building back means doing so with care. At this year’s Michener Awards, a ceremony dedicated to public service journalism and its impact on society, APTN journalist Kenneth Jackson acknowledged what it means to sit with the impact your work makes, on subjects, readers and staff.

“If you want to do service journalism you can’t fly above it,” he said, “you gotta get down and wear it.”

BuzzFeed appears to have worn its decision, as have the journalists who had to face the consequences.

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OPINION/EDITORIAL: Will social media companies ever make fighting online abuse a priority? –



Is it just me who believes we’ve lost our ability to have civil discourse? 

Every day, we rely on social media platforms to engage with like-minded people, promote ourselves, our work, and/or business. Unfortunately, the downside of increasing your visibility, especially when you wade into an online discussion with an unpopular opinion, is you become a lightning rod for online abuse. Online abuse can be especially relentless if you are a woman, identified as a member of a race, religion, ethnicity, or part of the LGBTQ+ community.

I believe social media companies can reduce, even come close to, eliminating, online abuse. The first step: Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Instagram, et al. becoming more serious and urgent about addressing the toxicity they’re permitting on their respective platform. The second step: Give users more control over their privacy, identity, and account history.  

Here are five features social media companies could introduce to mitigate online abuse.

Educate users on how to protect themselves online.

I’ll admit social media companies have been improving their anti-harassment features. However, many of these features are hard to find and not user-friendly. Platforms should have a section within their help center that deals specifically with online abuse, showing how to access internal features along with links to external tools and resources. 

Make it easy to tighten privacy and security settings.

Platforms need to make it easier for users to fine-tune their privacy and security settings and inform how these adjustments impact visibility and reach. Users should be able to save configurations of settings into personalized “safety modes,” which they can toggle between. When they alternate between safety modes, a “visibility snapshot” should show them in real-time who’ll see their content.

Distinguishing between the personal and professional

Currently, social media accounts are all-encompassing of your professional life and personal life. If you want to distinguish between your professional and personal life, you must create two accounts. Why not be able to make one social media account that toggles between your personal and professional identities as well as migrate or share audiences between them? 

Managing account histories

It’s common for people to switch jobs and careers and their views over time. Being able to pull up a user’s social media history, which can date back more than a decade, is a goldmine for abuse. Platforms should make it easy for users to easily search old posts and make them private, archive, or delete.

Credit cards and/or phone number authentication.

All social media platforms allow the creation of anonymous accounts. Ironically, much of the toxicity permeating social media stems from people hiding cowardly behind anonymous accounts. 

Anonymity enables toxic behavior by facilitating and backhandedly encouraging “uncivil discourse.” Eliminating the ability to create an anonymous account would literally end online abuse. 

Anonymity allows people to act out their anger, frustrations, and their need to make others feel bad, so they feel good. (I’m unhappy, so I want everyone else to be unhappy.). Being anonymous allows someone to say things they wouldn’t even think of or have the courage to, speak publicly, let alone face-to-face. 

All credit cards and telephone numbers are associated with a billing address. Social media platforms could prevent anonymous accounts by asking new joiners to input their credit card information, to be verified but not charged, or a telephone number to which a link, or code, can be sent to authenticate. (Email authentication is useless since email addresses can be created without identity verification.) 

Undeniable fact: When people know they can easily be traced they’re unlikely to exhibit uncivil behaviour.

Yeah, I know — for many, handing over more data to social media giants isn’t appetizing, even if it eliminates the toxic behavior hurting our collective psyche. Having to go through a credit card or telephone authentication will be pause for many to ask themselves why the feel they must be on social media. Such reflection is not a bad exercise.

Online attacks have a negative impact on mental and physical health, stops free expression, and silences voices already underrepresented in the creative and media sectors and in public discourse. 

Respective platform user guidelines (aka. Community Standards) are open to interpretation and therefore not enforced equitably. Content moderators (human eyes) and AI crawling (searching for offensive words and content) aren’t cutting it. 

Social media companies can’t deny they could be doing a much better job creating a safer online environment. Unfortunately, a safer online environment will only evolve when social media companies begin taking online abuse seriously.

Nick Kossovan writes the column ‘Digitized Koffee With Nick’ which appears in several newspapers and is the Customer Service Professionals Network’s Director of Social Media (Executive Board Member). On Twitter and Instagram follow @NKossovan.

The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author, and do not necessarily reflect the position of this publication.  

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Online Presence For Physicians: Appropriate Use Of Social Media – Media, Telecoms, IT, Entertainment – Canada – Mondaq News Alerts




Online Presence For Physicians: Appropriate Use Of Social Media

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Our interactions and presence on social media have continued to
increase, especially during the pandemic when the need and desire
to stay connected with one another has been heightened. Many
professionals, including physicians, use social media in their
practice as an effective tool to communicate and interact with
colleagues and patients, market their practice and their business,
and to share content and information with a broad audience. Along
with the opportunities for networking, business development and
socializing that social media presents, there are also risks
associated with its use by physicians and other professionals. It
is important for physicians and other professionals to understand
the risks associated with their online presence and ensure that
their behaviour and actions on social media are in line with the
professional, legal and ethical obligations of their

Guidance from the CPSO: Should physicians be active on social

The College of Physicians and Surgeons of Ontario (CPSO)
recognizes the benefits and opportunities that the participation in
social media provides to physicians, including the enhancement of
patient care, medical education and the fostering of collegiality
among fellow physicians and health professionals. However,
physicians continue to be expected to comply with all professional
obligations, including legal obligations, ethical obligations, and
CPSO policies, when creating an online presence and engaging in the
use of social media. These professional, legal, and ethical
obligations must be upheld at all times.

The CPSO has published guidelines to assist physicians with
ensuring that their presence online and their use of social media
complies with their professional obligations. A selection of these
guidelines are as follows:

  • Assume all content on the internet is public
  • Ensure compliance with legal and professional obligations to
    maintain patient privacy and confidentiality
  • Refrain from providing clinical advice to patients through
    social media
  • Protect your reputation, the reputation of the profession and
    public trust
  • Refrain from establishing personal connections with patients or
    people who are closely associated with patients

The CPSO has published several other guidelines with respect to
the use of social media which can be found here.

Best practices for physicians when engaging on social

Considering the guidelines of the CPSO outlined above, it may be
helpful for physicians to consider the following best practices
when using social media and creating their online presence:

Uphold Moral Principals and Integrity

As a professional, it is very important to ensure that
integrity, morals and ethics are upheld at all times, including
online. As the CPSO indicates in its guidelines for the use of
social media, it is strongly advised that physicians refrain from
providing clinical advice to specific patients through social

Social media is a great tool to use for the dissemination of
general medical or health information for educational or
informational sharing purposes. When sharing information on social
media, it is important to ensure that physicians are very clear
that their posts are not intended as medical advice and that they
are not providing a medical opinion. It may also be helpful to
indicate the basis of the information that is being shared, whether
based on scientific studies, professional experience or personal

Ensure Patient Privacy is Protected

Trust is essential to a sound patient-physician relationship.
Physicians have a statutory obligation to protect and maintain
patient privacy and confidentiality. The Personal Health
Information Protection Act
(PHIPA) places unique
responsibilities on individuals that control and collect health
information, and requires health information custodians, including
physicians, to take steps that are reasonable in the circumstances
to ensure that personal health information in the custodian’s
custody or control is protected against theft, loss and
unauthorized use or disclosure. When posting to social media, the
duty of privacy and confidentiality must be maintained at all
times, by ensuring that any posts that are made have been clearly
removed of any identifying information. Physicians must not post
identifiable patient information or images to social media. It is
possible for an unnamed patient to be identifiable through minimal
information such as the area of residence or a description of the
patient’s condition. Failure to protect patient health
information and comply with the requirements under PHIPA may result
in a host of liability issues, including significant fines and
disciplinary action by the College.

Maintain Professionalism

Physicians have an obligation to maintain professionalism and
act in a manner that upholds the professional standards and ethics
of the medical profession. Whether the physician is interacting in
person or online, such professionalism expectations remain the same
in all scenarios. Inappropriate behaviour on social media,
including the publishing of offensive or damaging statements, may
have the effect of bringing the professionalism of the physician
into question. This in turn could serve to weaken the public’s
opinion of the physician and of the profession itself. Physicians
who engage in the use of social media should ensure that all
communications are professional and are in line with the
expectations and obligations of the profession.

Additionally, as the CPSO suggests in its guidelines, physicians
should refrain from establishing personal connections with patients
online. If the physician receives a request on his or her personal
social media page, the physician may consider guiding the patient
to connect on their professional social media page, or to contact
the office. Forming personal connections with patients may blur
professional boundaries and compromise the physician’s ability
to remain objective.

Social media platforms have created opportunities for physicians
to increase professional and patient engagement, to advocate for
the profession and to build and maintain connections with
colleagues, peers and the public. It is important for physicians to
understand the risks associated with the improper use of social
media and to always be mindful that their legal, professional and
ethical obligations also extend to their online presence.

The content of this article is intended to provide a general
guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought
about your specific circumstances.

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