The arrest of Karl Dockstader, an award-winning Indigenous journalist, working for 610 CKTB radio, raises concern that both he and other journalists will be discouraged from covering the land dispute in the future because of the threat of further charges.
Dockstader had covered the land dispute between members of indigenous group Six Nations, the band council, and a development company, on a land known as the Haldimand Tract, located in Caledonia, Ontario.
“I thought I had covered all my bases and that my being there in my capacity as a journalist would have protected me,” Dockstader told local media.
“So long as I was not assisting the land defenders and was there in my capacity as a journalist, I thought I was protected,” he added.
His supporters say that the Ontario Provincial Police (OPP) charged Dockstader in total disregard to his status as a journalist reporting on public interest matters and have therefore clearly exceeded its powers.
Correspondents say that there are increasing restrictions on media coverage of indigenous stories in Canada. In August 2020, a Danish journalist making a documentary on indigenous resistance against a controversial pipeline was denied entry to Canada by immigraton officials, citing Covid-19 restrictions despite presenting all necessary paperwork justifying his stay. The IFJ and all its Canadian and Danish affiliates reacted and urged the authorities to grant him access.
IFJ General Secretary, Anthony Bellanger, said: “Canada should be a model country on press freedom protection, not a country where the police attempts to interfere in media coverage. The Canadian authorities must drop all charges against Dockstader and stop harassing independent journalism”.