Mere hours after demanding that police ruthlessly prosecute anyone involved in the Great Habs Riot and some even printing photos of suspects and asking people to identify them to police, local media are now refusing to participate in the investigation by handing over photos and video of the rioters. They are now in the process of fighting search warrants while evidence sits sealed under police custody.
The media have a legitimate interest in fighting such invasions. If they were seen to be agents of the police, they wouldn’t be able to do their jobs properly. Perhaps more worrisome, in situations like this the media itself could become a target.
But can you really pretend to take the moral high ground and a tough law-and-order stance, asking people to get involved and cooperate with police, when you refuse to do so yourself?
None of these rioters received promises of confidentiality, and none could have been stupid enough to think photos and video of them smashing police cars and store windows wouldn’t eventually get in the hands of police.
UPDATE: The Gazette’s Andrew Phillips responds on his blog, using the “slippery slope” argument. The Gazette’s article presents both sides of the issue, and Thursday’s paper has an editorial explaining the decision. The Journal’s Benoit Aubin also responds, giving mostly philosophical arguments about how the media shouldn’t act as deputies to the police.
Meanwhile, Richard Martineau, always ready to disagree with everyone, asks the question: Aren’t journalists citizens first? Should they not report when they witness crimes?
UPDATE (April 26): The court date is set for June 17. Can you feel the overwhelming speed of our justice system?
UPDATE (April 29): A letter-writer calls cooperating with police “doing one’s civic duty,” journalist or not.