Critics decry RCMP raid as ‘unethical’
By Katy Pollock
The RCMP raid of Ottawa Citizen reporter Juliet O’Neill’s
house and office last Wednesday has sparked enormous criticism
from journalist groups and activists who label the raid as
that of a police state.
The raid occurred in response to an article written by O’Neill
on the controversial Maher Arar case. A Canadian citizen, Arar
was arrested in the United States while travelling in 2002.
He was deported to his native Syria and imprisoned for 10 months
on suspicion of connections to terrorism.
In her article, O’Neill had used a secure source and
published information from a leaked document that contained
details of what Arar told the Syrian military intelligence.
“This will send a chill around newsrooms,” said
Western media, information and technoculture professor David
Spencer. “[Journalists] will worry, ‘every time
I write something sensitive, I risk being picked up by the
Spencer, an expert on the history of media, said that in the
future, constitutional guidelines will need to be drawn up
regarding proper police behaviour so that such a raid never
Attempting to identify O’Neill’s source, the RCMP
obtained a search warrant issued under the Security of Information
Act. According to MIT professor Romayne Smith-Fullerton, an
expert on journalism ethics, the use of this Act is an ethical
problem in itself.
“The Act, which is supposed to limit terrorist activities,
is being applied to journalists. [Prime Minister] Paul Martin
has acknowledged that O’Neill is not a terrorist,” she
A ruling the same day by Ontario Superior Court Judge Mary
Lou Benotto defended the rights of reporters to protect their
Smith-Fullerton also noted the potential for such actions
to threaten a journalist’s ability to comment on public
officials is an even larger problem. “[A] journalist’s
job is to monitor those in power,” she said. “And
when journalists cannot use these sources, the power of the
free press is squelched.”
“You shouldn’t have to be in fear that what you
write could cause that [kind of] harm or attention,” said
second-year health sciences student Anne Jamieson.