cover photo Agence QMI
Authors’ note. In an earlier version of this story I mistakenly asserted Mr Marshall had been charged with unlawful confinement. He has actually been charged with “confining” the property not the people. I apologize for the error it is mine alone.
On the 3rd of May 2016, ironically international press freedom day, Cori Marshall a member of the Canadian Association of Journalists, member of the board of CUTV a university media outlet that has existed for 30 years and his colleague Ion Etxebarria were arrested while covering a story. They have subsequently been charged with criminal mischief section430(1) c) (4) b) , Forcible detainer section 73, Illegal protest section 66 of the criminal code of Canada. Mr Marshall and his colleague could face jail if convicted If this prosecution is successful it will be a body blow to press freedom in this country.
Mr Marshall was filming an occupation of an office of Immigration Canada in Montréal . Mr Marshall was covering this event as a journalist. He is a member in good standing of the Canadian Association of Journalists. He did not plan the demonstration, he was not participating in the demonstration he was fulfilling the function of the Fifth estate covering a story of public interest. the following video was shot by Mr Marshall and streamed live to the web during the protest.
At 1:28 in the video Cori is forcibly taken outside. He is then releasedand allowed to keep filming The SPVM didn’t do this to any actual demonstrators just him at. After he is outside Cori goes to the west side of the building, he is followed by an SPVM officer who then tells him to go out from starting at 10:36 on the video. Cori’s partner inside heard the police inside ask , by name about Cori’s whereabouts and if he had been arrested yet( That gentleman’s testimony will follow tomorrow) Cori follows the policeman to the front where a section of police recieve’sa phone call and he was arrested, sequence starts at about 14:30 till the end of the video. Mr Marshall was an authorized member of CUTV news, a university backed org in existence for 30 years. press badge and working to cover the event live. He complied with all police orders and did not participate in the demonstrators actions at all
Mr Marshall was at all times clearly marked as press, he is well known as a journalist by the SPVM. At no time did he pose a threat to anyone,he certainly confined no one. He complied with police orders, he didn’t resist when without warning he was physically removed from the protest site inside the office. He continued to film outside at a respectful distance until he was arrested and thrown over the hood of a police vehicle. He was taken to a downtown police station and charged with criminal mischief. On June 23rd when he went to the court to receive his proforma he learned he was also being charged with Forcible Detainer,
This is not the Montréal polices first foray into press suppression. the report here contains numerous accounts of the brutal treatment of journalists in Québec . Journalists here, both mainstream and alternative have faced everything from viscous assault to hours of Illegal confinement and spurious, unconstitutional charges.
In September I helped organize a sit down between Montreal police and independent Journalists in the city. The meeting involved senior commanders from the communications and interventions sections of the police. It was mediated by Tom Henniffer executive director of Canadian Journalists for Free Expression. The meeting was difficult to arrange and was cancelled by Commander Ian Lafrenièr, head of communications at the time for the SPVM, at the last minute because we where planning a press conference afterward. He expressed the opinion that speaking to the press about a meeting dealing with freedom of the press was a violation of our “agreement”. Nevertheless at this meeting Commander Ian Lafrenièr agreed to end the arbitrary arrest and assault of Journalists by the SPVM. We agreed to continue the policy we had always followed of never interfering with police operations, obeying within reason and whenever possible while still doing our jobs, lawful police orders.
Mr Cori Marshall followed police orders , he did not struggle even when frogmarched out the door and streaming live to the internet he has the video to prove it. And yet for the first time Journalists face serious criminal charges for doing their job, for covering an event of public interest. A further danger here is that the behavior seems to be part of a conscious effort to stifle the coverage of protests as part of a wider strategy to deny citizens the right to protest at all. For five years the police in Québec have used brutal tactics to suppress dissent. These have been for the most part absolutely peaceful demonstrations.
This is a vital issue for any citizen who values their place and power in our society. We already suffer from media being controlled by a very few and our news being transformed into entertainment . Any real attempt at democracy requires an informed engaged public, a free and independent press is the guardian of this right to the realities of our governance it is absolutely vital if we wish to have a just society. But the only guardian of that free an independent press is the power of the citizen to ensure that legislators provide for and enforce its freedom to operate. Both Cori Marshall and his colleague Ion Etxebarria were volunteering their time to live-stream this event because it is an issue in the public interest and in the interest of their community and they passionately believe that interest must be served. Now the public and the community need to be as passionate in their defense.