Photojournalist Amber Bracken and documentary-maker Michael Toledano were embedded with indigenous groups when they were arrested on November 19 while covering a protest against a natural gas pipeline in Wet’suwet’en, northern British Columbia. They were released on November 22 and will appear in court in February 2022, charged with contempt.
Amber Bracken received the Charles Bury Award last year, and was working for daily The Narwhal during the protest. She had also worked for the Guardian. Michael Toledano had worked for Al Jazeera and Vice news.
CWA Canada President Martin O’Hanlon called the charges "a gross violation of press freedom".
"The arrest of even one journalist is an assault on freedom of the press - and democracy. This sorry incident hurts Canada’s reputation and emboldens despots abroad who will use it to justify their actions. Charges must be dropped and an apology issued," he said.
On November 22, The Narwhal published an article stating that the journalists’ were also being tracked by the RCMP (Royal Canadian Mounted Police).
Jennifer Moreau, Unifor Media Council chair and a member of the IFJ executive said: "This case is extremely disturbing, and now we’ve learned that the RCMP were also collecting information on these two journalists before they were arrested. It is an attack on press freedom when police throw journalists in jail for covering a story. It is not a crime to be embedded with sources, nor is it a crime to report from an injunction zone. The RCMP know this, and they have not given a valid reason for the arrests.”
IFJ General Secretary, Anthony Bellanger, said: “This is not acceptable. Not only have these journalists been arrested while doing their work and covering a matter of public interest in Canada but they were held for three days and now have to appear in court. The charges should be dropped immediately. The RCMP needs to stop arresting journalists and restricting their movement.”