Skip to content

LETTER: The Narwhal didn’t agree to media protocol at Wet’suwet’en camps, defends RCMP lawsuit

Photographer not asked to follow anti-pipeline camp media protocol, says editor
Officers pictured at the Gidimt’en checkpoint on Jan. 7, 2019. (Canadian Press photo)

To the editor,

An opinion piece published by The Terrace Standard on Feb. 23 made several incorrect assertions about The Narwhal and Amber Bracken’s lawsuit against the RCMP for wrongful arrest, wrongful detention and breaches of our Charter rights.

READ MORE: Lawsuit against RCMP raises line between activism and journalism

To be clear, The Narwhal is moving forward with a long and uneconomical lawsuit against the RCMP due to a troubling pattern of behaviour by police toward journalists reporting from within injunction zones. We are pursuing this case to defend freedom of the press, which is protected under the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

A 2018 ruling by the Court of Appeal in Newfoundland and Labrador in the case of Justin Brake, who reported on Inuit protesters occupying the disputed Muskrat Falls Dam project, affirmed that journalists covering protests by Indigenous people should be allowed to do their work so long as they are engaged in apparent good faith in a news-gathering activity, are not actively assisting, participating with or advocating for the protesters, are not obstructing or interfering with those seeking to enforce the law and that the matters being reported are matters of public interest.

Justice Derek Green also noted that “aboriginal communities have been historically underrepresented in the Canadian media. That makes freedom of the press to cover stories involving Indigenous land issues even more vital.”

As a small, non-profit news organization, The Narwhal certainly did not want to have to bring a lengthy, expensive lawsuit against one of the most powerful organizations in the country. But asserting journalists’ rights to report from within injunction zones is a matter of protecting the public’s right to know — and that is a fight we couldn’t turn our backs on.

The op-ed author also asserted that some journalists have been asked to agree to a media protocol before reporting from Wet’suwet’en camps. The Narwhal and Amber Bracken have never been asked to abide by any such policy, nor would we agree to such terms, as they would compromise our editorial independence.

While some people may not like the issues The Narwhal reports on, our team follows the Canadian Association of Journalists’ code of ethics and has won nearly 20 national journalism awards in the past five years.

The Narwhal operates as if it were the environment section of the newspaper.

We focus on issues like biodiversity, climate science, Indigenous Rights, sustainable development and the intrinsic value of the natural world.

Quite often, we choose to report verified facts that may be inconvenient for those in power or others who want to protect the status quo. Do these choices represent a point of view? Sure. But no more so than the choice by any publication to have a business section and not an environment section.

Emma Gilchrist is editor-in-chief of The Narwhal

EDITOR’S NOTE: Since being contacted by The Narwhal, Black Press Media has updated the original opinion piece to remove a previous reference that photojournalist Amber Bracken is an activist, as well as reference to a claim made in a podcast that suggested The Narwhal intentionally excluded the CBC from its lawsuit.