News orgs appeal decision on publication bans for bail hearings

A group of news organizations including the Toronto Star, CBC, Associated Press and CTV have asked the Supreme Court of Canada to strike down a law that makes publication bans on bail hearings mandatory if requested.

According to a Star report on the case:

“It was clear by the phalanx of 27 lawyers who appeared in court Monday representing media outlets, Crown prosecutors and accused individuals that the stakes in the hearing are high.”

The appeal stemmed from a publication ban during the bail hearings after the 2006 arrest of 17 terrorism suspects police alleged were planning to bomb several targets in Toronto. At the time media outlets appealed the ban and it was eventually overturned.

The current appeal argues that mandatory bans shouldn’t exist at all.

The Supreme Court’s decision could come in six to nine months, the Star notes.

A media coalition including the Canadian Association of Journalists (CAJ), the Canadian Newspaper Association (CNA), RTNDA and Ad IDEM/Canadian Media Lawyers Association.intervened in the case in support of the media outlets.

CAJ president Mary Agnes Welch said in a press release:

“Section 517 effectively bans journalists from reporting on nearly everything said in court during a bail hearing – every piece of evidence, every argument made by lawyers, even the judge’s reason for granting or denying bail. It’s done automatically in dozens of cases every day in Canada, even when the evidence isn’t likely to taint a jury pool. That’s a huge blow to freedom of the press and the public’s right to know how justice is meted out. As the Toronto Star and other media outlets argued, the public cannot have confidence in a secret process.”