Canada falls in press freedom ranking

Canada’s press freedoms are under threat, according to the latest World Press Freedom Index released by Reporters Without Borders.

Canada dropped four spots to number 22 on the list that ranks 180 countries based on how they treat journalists.

A number of high-profile incidents of police action against journalists in Canada have raised concerns.

Press organisations have called on the government to shore up laws protecting free speech and media sources.

The UK was ranked 40, down five spots, and the United States 43, down two spots, on the same list.

Last fall, Canadian Journalists for Free Expression slammed the “massive culture problem in our policing and surveillance agencies” after it was revealed that Quebec police spied on 10 journalists. Their criticism came shortly after journalist Justin Brake was arrested for covering a protest in Newfoundland.

  • Journalists call on Canada to shore up press freedom
  • Montreal police hacked journalist’s phone

In March, the federal Court of Appeal ruled that Vice News journalist Ben Makuch had to turn over all his communication with accused terrorist Farah Shirdon, including texts, to Canadian police.

His lawyer argued the ruling will have a “chilling effect” on the media, by turning journalists into police sources.

“This has all happened in the last year, so it doesn’t surprise me that we went down” on the list, Mr Makuch told the BBC.

“We really need to start taking this more seriously.”

He believes that law enforcement has been “pressing their powers” in an age where the secret to solving many cases is getting access to digital information. At the same time, the RCMP has complained about current roadblocks to obtaining digital information, such as the widespread use of encryption.

Mr Makuch and other journalists have pushed for the government to pass a “shield law”, which would protect journalists from being forced to reveal their sources. A similar law exists in most states in the US.

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