Canadian Journalists for Free Expression among groups present for talks
Journalists advocating for better treatment of reporters during protests are feeling confident after a closed meeting between local journalists and the Montreal police Monday morning.
The meeting was moderated by Tom Henheffer, executive director of Canadian Journalists for Free Expression, and attended by members of the Canadian Association of Journalists and the Canadian Civil Liberties Association.
“We cannot change what happened in the past, but today we met to ensure the police and the independent press could cooperate with a mutual respect for each other’s work and each other’s safety,” said Henheffer at a press conference across the street from Montreal police headquarters on St. Urbain street. “This meeting is the start of an ongoing conversation we plan to have with the police.”
Henheffer said the members of the independent media pledged to obey police orders and not obstruct police during protests. In return, the Montreal police agreed to recognize the rights of the independent press and allow them to cover protests.
Henheffer also said the SPVM is working to create guidelines for journalists, giving reporters an idea of how far back they should be from arrests or police lines and even an idea of police tactics to ensure journalists remain out of the way of any maneuvers. While the guidelines haven’t been created yet, Henheffer said he feels the SPVM will be reasonable.
“It’ll be an ongoing conversation,” he said. “I’m sure that they will be willing to talk about them at the very least. Whether we can get them to move on [any rules], I’m not completely sure on that.”
Matt D’Amours, a journalist with The Link and 99% Media who has been covering Montreal protests for years, feels confident about the new understanding between journalists and Montreal police.
“Nobody is under the illusion that change is going to happen right away,” he said. “But we have taken a very important step towards starting a dialogue with the [Montreal police] to make sure the situation and conditions of journalists—whether they be independent, mainstream or otherwise—will improve, and also the police can do their job without us interfering.”
D’Amours said he hopes conditions for journalists improve so independent and student journalists can cover protests without the fear of retribution.