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Conference brings together lawyers, journalists to debate nature of free press

Journalism

The Press Freedom conference on March 8 and 9 will look at the status of media and the law 30 years after the establishment of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

Journalists, lawyers, students and academics will meet this week at Ryerson University’s School of Journalism to explore the status of press freedom in Canada 30 years after the Charter of Rights and Freedoms made a free press the law of the land.

Organized by Ryerson’s Journalism Research Centre and the Ryerson Law Research Centre, Press Freedom in Canada: A Status Report on the 30th Anniversary of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms is an interdisciplinary conference that will take place March 8 and 9 at the Rogers Communications Centre. The Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, signed into law in 1982, made press freedom a fundamental right in Canada.

The regulation of new media, anti-terrorism measures and government secrecy will all be explored during the two-day event.

“This conference will be an opportunity to take stock of the press freedom situation,” said April Lindgren, director of the Ryerson Journalism Research Centre.   “We’ve lived with the Charter and its press freedom provisions for 30 years. It’s a good time to pause and evaluate where we’re at in Canada because a free press is at the heart of a well-functioning democracy.”

The first day of the conference will feature a series of panel discussions featuring journalists and lawyers as well as a sold-out luncheon with a keynote address by Tony Burman, former managing director of Al Jazeera English Network and current Velma Rogers Graham Research Chair. The second day will focus on in-depth examinations of issues affecting press freedom, including court restrictions on media access to information, the implications of new media, and government strategies that hinder access to information.

All panels on March 8 and Friday’s morning session will be aired live on https://ryecast.ryerson.ca/1/page/index.aspx.

Confirmed speakers over the two days include legal and media scholars from across Canada. Other presenters include Toronto Star editor-in-chief Michael Cooke; Globe and Mail columnist Margaret Wente; John Gomery, president of the Quebec Press Council; Huffington Post Canada’s Kenny Yum; Ottawa Citizen columnist Susan Riley; and Linden MacIntyre from CBC’s the fifth estate. Also speaking are Daniel Henry, senior legal counsel for the CBC; media law specialist and Toronto Star counsel Bert Bruser; and Marlys Edwardh, the lawyer who represented Maher Arar in the investigation of his deportation to Syria.

Organizers made a conscious decision to hold the conference during class time while students were on campus so that young journalists could attend the sessions. For a full schedule of speakers, please visit http://www.ryerson.ca/lawcentre/index.html.

“We are thrilled to support and organize this conference” said Avner Levin, academic director of the Ryerson Law Research Centre. “It showcases Ryerson’s in-depth exploration of the relationship between the press and the law.”

To learn more about why press freedom matters, visit http://j-source.ca/article/press-freedom-who-gives-damn-anyway to read an article written by journalism chair Ivor Shapiro.

To follow this conference on Twitter, use hashtag #freepressCda.

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