Media opposes publication ban, Ontario stays firm

The news media are challenging a publication ban imposed Friday in the case of the murder of eight-year-old Tori Stafford, but the province of Ontario says it won’t challenge the ban.

According to a Toronto Star report, Premier Dalton McGuinty said it would be “imprudent for me to insinuate myself into a judicial process.” Provincial Progressive Conservative leader Tim Hudak, on the other hand, said he was “very concerned about transparency in our system.”

A judge imposed the unusually broad ban on Friday, April 30, the day Terri-Lynne McClintic was scheduled to appear at a preliminary hearing.

The judge told the media what they could say: “As we previously reported, Terri-Lynne McClintic was scheduled to appear on April 30, 2010 in the Superior Court of Justice at Woodstock but because of a temporary publication ban, we are prohibited by court order from providing any further information until further order of the court.”

The Globe and Mail and the Toronto Star both published front-page editorials on Saturday protesting the ban.

“With the press forbidden to relay any of the facts to the public, rumour and innuendo will replace solid reporting,” wrote the Star. “And these rumours are likely to be given wide dissemination on the Web, which is much harder for the courts to control.”

The National Post reported that Iain MacKinnon, a lawyer representing a number of Canadian media organizations, said he will be arguing for the ban to be lifted.

In a backgrounder on publication bans, the Post also reported that judges in two other Ontario murder trials have issued similar bans this month in cases with multiple accused.

Canadian Journalists for Free Expression’s Free Expression Review, published this week, maintains that courts rely too heavily on publication bans, but also observes that in most cases when media organizations appeal such bans, appeal courts agree they were unnecessary.