CAJ pleased Facebook info will be part of court case
OTTAWA, Sept. 28, 2012 /CNW/ -The Canadian Association of Journalists welcomes the Supreme Court of Canada ruling that allows some of the false Facebook information relating to a cyber bullied teenager to be reported, as long as it doesn’t identify the victim.
The CAJ, along with several other media partners, intervened in the Supreme Court of Canada case that led to Thursday’s decision. In its April 2012 brief to the Supreme Court, the media coalition strongly urged the judges to place no restrictions on what can and cannot be reported in open court.
We wanted no publication ban on the victim’s name, nor on what the false Facebook page actually said.
In the case, known as A.B. vs. Bragg, the judges ruled unanimously Thursday to uphold a 17-year-old girl from Nova Scotia’s request to remain anonymous and be known only by her initials while she and her family pursue a defamation claim against the people who set up a false Facebook account that contained highly sexualized statements about her.
“The CAJ recognizes that bullying in the social media world can be harmful to vulnerable young people, but we feared that it opens up a dangerous precedent for a court to place a publication ban on publicly accessible online information, without requiring the victims to actually show specific ways in which any publicity would harm them,” CAJ president Hugo Rodrigues said. “There is a corresponding public interest in an important story being reported in a way that captures the audience’s attention. In order for the case to contribute to public debate, the public must find out about it.”
Our CAJ Ethics Guidelines, which are a must read for newsrooms across the country, do touch on several key issues involved in the reporting of this and similar cases, especially when it comes to interviewing minors and the use of social media.
Journalists are increasingly using social networking sites to access information about people and organizations. When individuals post and publish information about themselves on these sites, this information generally becomes public, and can be used. Even when such information is public, we must rigorously apply ethical considerations including independent confirmation and transparency in identifying the source of information.
The Canadian Association of Journalists is a professional organization with hundreds of members across Canada. The CAJ’s primary roles are public-interest advocacy work and professional development for its members.