Video of a Mountie telling a journalist to ‘remain silent’ raises worries about press freedom

Video of a Mountie
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Legal experts are concerned about a widely circulated video that shows an RCMP officer instructing a journalist to “silence” while covering protests against old-growth logging on Vancouver Island “or you’ll be gone.”

Ora Cogan, a Teen Vogue reporter covering the protests, shared the video on Twitter earlier this week. It shows her conversing with a Mountie while he appears to be escorting a group of protesters along a gravel road in the Fairy Creek watershed.

She claims in her tweet that she questioned the officer why media access was prohibited.

In the video, he says to her, “The rules have already been laid out for you. You must remain silent while performing your duties, or you will be terminated. You are not to communicate with us or engage with us in any way. You must be self-sufficient and quiet.”

Veronica Martisius, staff counsel for policy at the B.C. Civil Liberties Association, believes that reporters have the freedom to do their jobs without police intrusion. The Canadian Association of Journalists expressed “grave concern” over the video’s content and stated it was gathering information on the incident.

The video is the latest in a series of police operations at the Fairy Creek blockades that have sparked worries about press freedom. Since May, RCMP officers have been on the spot executing a court injunction prohibiting Teal Jones from logging their 595-square-kilometer concession on southern Vancouver Island.

Some of the RCMP’s tactics restricting reporters’ activity at protest sites have previously been found illegal in court during that time. A B.C. Supreme Court judge ruled earlier this month that police had no legal right to prohibit journalists or members of the public access to the Fairy Creek watershed.