KJIPUKTUK (Halifax) – The court in Happy Valley-Goose Bay has ordered the RCMP to arrest 21 activists and a journalist if they do not leave the occupied Muskrat Falls site.
The request by Nalcor Energy to issue the order to arrest the named land defenders is unwarranted and probably not very smart from a strategic and public relations perspective. But to include a journalist in that arrest order is outrageous.
It now appears that the journalist has decided to leave the site to prevent such an arrest.
That journalist is Justin Brake, who writes for the Newfoundland and Labrador Independent. I have been following Brake for a while, we have talked over the phone a couple of times, and I have come to know him as a deeply serious and dedicated journalist.
The point is, Brake is only doing his job when he reports from inside the Muskrat Falls site.
Over the last few days he has been live streaming and live tweeting from the occupied Muskrat Falls quarters. Thanks to Brake the picture that emerges is one of people who have reason to fear for their future, aren’t being heard, and see no other avenue but this occupation to make the world finally pay attention to their plight.
Brake’s reports also show that the occupation is peaceful, and is apparently supported by quite a few of the Nalcor employees on the ground.
Maybe that’s not a picture Nalcor wants the world to see, but that’s not something good journalists worry about a lot.
On social media some people are arguing that Brake is not a real journalist because he is biased, which somehow makes his looming arrest okay. These people can’t be familiar with Brake’s work.
Arresting journalists to shut them up is sadly not that uncommon.
Just a couple of weeks ago we saw it happen to Democracy Now! journalist Amy Goodman, arrested and charged while reporting on police violence against peaceful protesters in opposition to an oil pipeline installation near the Standing Rock Sioux Reservation in North Dakota.
In our own neck of the woods Halifax Media Co-op reporter Miles Howe was arrested three times during the anti-fracking protests in Kent County, New Brunswick, in 2013. Howe spent time in jail, had his cell phone confiscated, but in the end he was never charged. As far as I know at that time only the Canadian Journalists for Free Expression and a handful of journalists spoke up.
I hope that this time more journalists and people who care about press freedom make their voices heard. This kind of bullying of journalists need to stop.
Just so you know, I have donated money (actually bought a beautiful print) specifically to help Brake do his work in Labrador. Very few journalists were doing any kind of reporting there, and no one as consistently as Brake and the Independent. As a Nova Scotian set to benefit from Muskrat Falls I felt his work in Labrador warranted my support.