Civil liberties and legal rights groups are expressing outrage after Ottawa Police threatened members of the media with arrest for reporting on the ongoing crackdown of peaceful protesters calling for an end to COVID-19 mandates.
On Friday, the official Ottawa Police Twitter account warned that media attending the protest zone would be “subject to arrest.”
“All media who are attending the area, please keep a distance and stay out of police operations for your safety. Anyone found within areas undergoing enforcement may be subject to arrest,” tweeted Ottawa Police.
The Canadian Civil Liberties Association (CCLA) slammed the announcement, saying such actions run contrary to law.
“Warning journalists about safety risks in the protest zone is reasonable. Threatening them with arrest for doing their jobs is not. Time and time again, Canadian courts have ruled against exclusion zones and other limits on the press,” wrote the CCLA.
The CCLA had announced Thursday that they would be taking the Trudeau government to court over its implementation of the Emergencies Act, saying the necessary legal threshold for the legislation had not been met.
The Justice Centre for Constitutional Freedoms (JCCF) also condemned announcements by Ottawa Police over law enforcement’s handling of the Ottawa protests on Friday, sending a cease-and-desist letter to Interim chief Steve Bell.
Bell announced Thursday that 100 checkpoints had been established throughout Ottawa and that those hoping to join any protest would be barred from entering the downtown area.
“The secured area includes almost 100 checkpoints that will have police presence to ensure that those seeking entry to that secure area for an unlawful reason, such as joining a protest, cannot enter the downtown core,” said Bell during a press conference.
The JCCF condemned police actions in a press release, reminding Bell that the Charter of Rights – to which the Emergencies Act is supposed to be bound – guarantees peaceful assembly.
“The Charter ensures that Canadians are free to peacefully assemble, to express their ideas, to gather to discuss them and communicate them widely to other people, including vigorous political dissent. These activities are basic forms of individual liberty,” the JCCF wrote.
“They are essential to the basic functioning of a democratic society like Canada. In Canada, people are free to discuss matters of public policy, to protest and to criticize governments.”
True North is on the ground in Ottawa as police continue their crackdown on the Freedom Convoy protests.
The convoy entered its 27th day on Friday.