Arrested in April in Montreal, a journalist is concerned about freedom of the press

Arrested in April in Montreal, a journalist is concerned about freedom of the press
Arrested in April in Montreal, a journalist is concerned about freedom of the press

As the days go by since her arrest, journalist Savanna Craig says she is increasingly concerned about press freedom in Canada. She believes she is the latest victim of “a trend of intimidation and repression by authorities toward journalists” that is spreading dangerously in the country, she says.

On April 15, pro-Palestinian protesters staged a sit-in at a bank just steps from the McGill University campus in Montreal, blocking access to the teller machines. The journalist says she was covering the protest from inside, as she usually does.

When the police arrived, I introduced myself as a journalist and showed my press card several times.she says. I made it clear that I was not a protester. She was nevertheless arrested along with around fifty protesters.

The journalist has specialized in the pro-Palestinian movement for eight years, covering issues and protests for CUTV, Concordia University television, and for the Middle East Eye, among others.

Since the outbreak of the Middle East conflict, she has tirelessly held out her microphone to Montreal protesters, both on quiet days and on days of major news. She says she has thus built a bond of trust professional with them.

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Savanna Craig says she has built trust with the protesters by covering their demands almost daily. (File photo)

Photo : Radio-Canada

Nearly three months after her arrest, the investigation is still ongoing. Savanna Craig could face criminal charges of mischief. That’s a lot for me to handle.she sighs.

While the outcome of her story is still pending, she argues that a violation of press freedom should be resolved much more quickly.

Savanna Craig feels she must not only defend her cause, but that of all journalists in Canada, in the face of what she describes as a rise inintimidation authorities towards journalists.

I don’t want any journalist to have to go through what I’m going through.

A quote from Savanna Craig, journalist

As a journalist, I should not find myself in this situation.she laments. I didn’t do anything wrong, I had the right to be there.

Arrest and release

A few months before these events, another journalist was similarly arrested while covering the dismantling of a homeless encampment in Edmonton from the inside. Charges of obstructing police work against her were dropped two months later.

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Journalist Brandi Morin was arrested in January in Edmonton.

Photo : Radio-Canada / Craig Ryan

Also recalling the case of two journalists arrested and detained during a tense situation caused by the construction of a gas pipeline in Wet’suwet’en territory in 2021, Savanna Craig concludes that these are no longer isolated cases.

By initiating legal proceedings against journalists, the authorities are trying of [leur] pass on a message and [les] to silenceshe maintains.

Press freedom organisations, including Reporters Without Borders (RSF), have condemned this arrest and release tactics. In the most recent World Press Freedom Index, RSFCanada arrives at 14e rang.

These arbitrary arrests cause irreparable damage to the public’s right to information.warned the president of the Canadian Association of Journalists, Brent Jolly.

By preventing journalists from doing their job, […] authorities threaten to undermine the democratic legitimacy of the institutions they are supposed to serve.

A quote from Brent Jolly, president of the Canadian Association of Journalists

For Savanna Craig, these arrests are made to make journalists feel guilty and for the discouraged from doing their work.

Craig, it’s a challenge for all of society.”,”text”:”It’s not just a challenge for journalists, says Ms. Craig, it’s a challenge for all of society.”}}”>This is not just an issue for journalists, Craig says, it is an issue for all of society. The population must be able to understand the circumstances and context behind each news story, she continues, and The presence of journalists on the ground is essential to achieve this..

Calls to Trudeau and Plante go unanswered

For Savanna Craig, the situation is alarming, especially since, with a few exceptions, politicians have not denounced her arrest. This is proof of the lack of political will to protect press freedom in Canadashe believes. It is very frustrating.

On her social networks, she directly called on Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and the Mayor of Montreal, Valérie Plante, to defend journalists in commenting on his arrest. His requests have so far remained unanswered.

Mayor Plante, who recently denounced the attack on journalist Yves Poirier by a protester at Victoria Square, should do so for all violations of press freedomsays Ms. Craig.

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Freedom of the press is crucial, it is one of the pillars of our democracy. We are convinced that the Montreal Police Department has the greatest respect for freedom of the press.responded by email the office of Valérie Plante, while refusing to comment on the specific case of Savanna Craig, as the events are currently under criminal investigation.

The SPVMhe held to reassure the media and the public that it will not stop journalists carrying out their dutiesrecalling that it is required to respect the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms and the Quebec Charter of Human Rights and Freedoms. Since the file is now in the hands of the DPCPhe declined to comment on the events of April 15.

Savanna Craig continues her work despite everything. At the time of writing, she was in Toronto covering the dismantling of a pro-Palestinian encampment.

I will not be intimidated or frightenedshe says. I am cautious, but I am not afraid.

I hope my story does not discourage other journalists and aspiring journalists from covering important events like the ones I was documenting that day.

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