Magazine article Canadian Dimension

Step Away from Your Camera

Magazine article Canadian Dimension

Step Away from Your Camera

Article excerpt

It was seeing Sofia Cisowski weep on television that turned Paul Pritchard into a citizen journalist.

He was well on his way, of course, having witnessed and taped the death of Sofia's son, Robert Dziekanski, at the hands of Taser-wielding RCMP in the Vancouver Airport. A law-abiding Canadian, Pritchard had trusted the Mounties with the memory card from his Sony digital videocam, but they were refusing to return it, saying it could be two years before he could get it back--after any potential inquiry was over.

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Pritchard, 23, was newly sensitive to abusive authorities; he'd just spent three years teaching English in China, and had seen plenty of abuses there. He'd made a point of telling his Chinese students about the rights and protections enjoyed by Canadians. He hoped he'd helped his students to stand up for their rights. He never imagined he'd have to stand up for his own--and within just days of returning home.

When Sofia's tears pushed him over the edge, he decided the public must see his video, and, although completely inexperienced in legal matters, he hired a lawyer to get it back. Shortly thereafter it was aired by the CBC, CTV and Global networks, and Canadians found themselves watching what amounted to a public execution by their national police force.

Pritchard, at 23, was too young to see himself as a historical figure, one of at least three larger-than-life videographers in the history of inverse surveillance, in which citizens turn the tables and monitor police.

In 1963, clothes manufacturer Abraham Zapruder filmed 26 silent seconds of JFK's assassination in Dallas on his 8mm Bell & Howell home-movie camera. life magazine bought exclusive rights to the film and prevented it from being broadcast for the next fourteen years.

In 1991, California roofer George Holliday used his Sony Handycam to capture the nine-minute beating of Rodney King by members of the Los Angeles Police Department. …

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