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Journalist's legal battle to protect sources continues; independence of journalists at stake, says CJFE

(CJFE/IFEX) - The following is a 28 May 2007 CJFE press release:

Crown's Bid for Finkle's Notes Threatens Journalists' Independence says CJFE

(Toronto, May 28, 2007) Canadian Journalists for Free Expression (CJFE) believes that the independence of journalists is at stake as Derek Finkle's fight to quash a subpoena against him goes back to court on May 29. CJFE has joined with the Professional Writers Association of Canada (PWAC) and the Writers' Union of Canada as interveners in the case.

The subpoena was issued in 2006 to gain access to the written materials amassed by journalist Derek Finkle for his 1994 book "No Claim to Mercy" about Robert Baltovich, who is now appealing the murder conviction against him. The subpoena, if successful, would force Finkle to turn over all his notes from various sources, including Baltovich.

CJFE believes that if the Crown succeeds in its application, the resulting precedent would discourage journalists from investigating contentious court cases by exposing them to the prospect of having their work materials subpoenaed. "A win for the Crown would be a strong deterrent to writers who seek to shine a light on matters about which the public is not fully informed," said Paul Knox, Chair of CJFE's Canadian Issues committee.

CJFE has developed a set of preconditions in its affidavit, which should be met by any party seeking access to a writer's work. One of the most important of these preconditions is the requirement "to specify detailed particulars of the material sought from the writer and the relevance of that material to an issue at trial." CJFE is concerned that the Crown has not to date said what type of material it is looking for or demonstrated the relevance of any of it to the Baltovich appeal.

The organization also believes it is not only journalists who are threatened by the demand for Finkle's material.

"Canadians have no interest in seeing journalists compelled to do the work of police and prosecutors," said CJFE executive director Anne Game. "Ultimately, we all lose if they are not free to do their jobs without interference."

Canadian Journalists for Free Expression (CJFE) is an association of more than 300 journalists, editors, publishers, producers, students and others who work to promote and defend free expression and press freedom in Canada and around the world.

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