CJFE issues disturbing report on police treatment of G20 journalists

Canadian Journalists for Free Expression (CJFE) has released its report on allegations of police misconduct and the treatment of journalists during the G20 meeting in Toronto in June.

It’s not a pretty picture.

Published in CJFE’s International Free Expression Review and online, the report contains multiple stories of journalists being arrested for no discernible reason, harassed and roughed up by police. Read J-Source‘s account of the organization’s International Press freedom awards.

Immediately following the summit CJFE asked journalists who had covered the events for accounts of their experiences in an online survey. Thirty responded: Seven were from mainstream media, two were student journalists, nine worked for smaller publications or alternative media, 11 identified themselves as freelance/independent or volunteers, and one was not a journalist. All but two, CJFE said, had problems with police simple for trying to do their work.

Some were hit with rubber bullets, some beaten. Cameras were seized and sometimes broken. Film was destroyed. Several were held in cages for up to 20 hours, denied food, water and access to legal help. Others were “kettled” – hemmed in by police for up to four hours in pouring rain. One was asked if he was born in Canada. Another had her power wheelchair taken.

The report includes the personal stories of several reporters.

Lisan Jutras, blogging for The Globe and Mail, told a police officer she was with CTV Globemedia, and “immediately my wrists were grabbed and I was forced into handcuffs. I said my press ID was in my bag but nobody was interested in seeing it. Nobody said anything, except my police escort, who said ‘You Have been charged with conspiracy to commit public mischief.’”

Vincenzo d’Alto, an independent photographer, had his Fédération Professionnelle des Journalistes du Québec press pass hanging around his neck, and says he is “not sure why I was the target of a rubber bullet.”

“The press was treated like a potential enemy of the police and was systematically denied access and information. In many cases this included violence, detention, confiscation of equipment,” said Jesse Freeston of The Real News Network, a subsidiary of Independent World Television, quoted in the CJFE report.