Quebec Superior Court has sided with the media in a legal battle with police over notes, video and photos from the April 21 Habs riot. The material, which was seized by search warrant after the event, will be returned – unopened – to the media outlets they came from.
When I first wrote about the battle in April, I was unsure of my position, but leaning toward the idea that because journalists did not make any promises of anonymity to their subjects, there should be no reason why they can’t co-operate with police.
But after the more recent riot in Montreal North, where a La Presse photographer was attacked, I’m leaning more toward the idea that journalists can’t do their jobs properly if they can be forced to act as an arm of law enforcement (especially when that law enforcement sits blocks away waiting for backup while the journalists enter the war zone).
I won’t for a moment defend rioters, but I take some comfort in the legal precedent that journalists won’t be seen as cops. Of course, anything they end up publishing can still be used by police, so it’s still a good idea to avoid journalists, or not riot in the first place.