Court Spikes Canadian Press Story

By Fitzgerald, Mark | Editor & Publisher, April 3, 2000 | Go to article overview

Court Spikes Canadian Press Story


Fitzgerald, Mark, Editor & Publisher


JUSTICE'S DECISION DRIVES A STAKE INTO HEART OF A FREE PRESS

In a sweeping decision that imposes prior restraint on a story unearthed by Canada's largest news service, a Nova Scotia Supreme Court justice is forbidding The Canadian Press to publish stories about the tentative conclusions of a federal investigation into a fatal ship collision.

Justice Frank Edwards ruled that CP was not entitled to the draft report leaked from the Canadian Transportation Safety Board - and therefore the wire service must give the document back and cannot write about its contents.

In Canada, Edwards declared, "The media has no constitutional entitlement to gather information and collect confidential documents it believes to be newsworthy."

"This would never, ever in a million years happen in the [United] States," CP Editor in Chief Scott White said. He contrasted Edwards' ruling to the news coverage of recent high-profile accidents in the United States, "People are leaking right, left, and center, and nobody stops them from publishing."

In early February, CP reporter Allison Auld obtained a draft report of the transportation board's investigation into the 1998 collision between a fishing boat and a high-speed car ferry that shuttles between Yarmouth, Nova Scotia, and Bar Harbor, Maine. The two were attempting to pass each other in dense fog when the large catamaran ferry crushed the fishing boat, killing one person. There has been local interest in the investigation because of allegations the ferry has exceeded speed limits in the harbor.

When Auld contact the transportation board for comment, the board went to court and got a temporary injunction forbidding publication of any information from the draft. …

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