Thursday, 30 March 2017
Environment featured Racism

Journalist in Newfoundland and Labrador faces criminal charges for doing his job

KJIPUKTUK (Halifax) – Journalist Justin Brake, of Newfoundland and Labrador’s The Independent,  faces criminal charges for reporting the news.

In October 2016 Brake live streamed, live tweeted and reported from the occupied Muskrat Falls quarters in Labrador.

Photo from one of Justin Brake’s Oct. 24, 2016 Facebook live streams.Photo The Independent

A statement in The Independent says that earlier this month Brake was summoned to appear in provincial court in Happy Valley-Goose Bay April 11 on charges of mischief exceeding $5,000 and disobeying a previous Supreme Court of N.L. injunction prohibiting people from entering or blocking access to the site.”

“These criminal charges, which carry a penalty of up to 10 years in prison, are not only an attack on The Independent for doing important journalism,” Brake is quoted as saying in the statement, “they also amount to an attack by the RCMP on press freedom in Canada.

The occupiers wanted to raise awareness of the impact of the Muskrat Falls power generation project on the quality of life of Inuit and Innu who live in the area.  Indigenous peoples will see their lands flooded, and others living downstream are facing the threat of methylmercury poisoning.

Thanks to Brake the picture of the occupation that emerged 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 showed that the occupation was peaceful.

Brake was the only journalist to report on the occupation from the inside. Other media outlets were struggling to even get their reporters in the general area.

Brake and The Independent have consistently provided in depth coverage of an issue that is largely ignored by other news media unless some kind of “newsworthy” crisis occurs.

An international coalition of major press freedom organizations has condemned the criminal charges brought against Brake.

“The charges are an outrageous assault by the RCMP on press freedom in Canada and must be withdrawn immediately,” says a joint statement issued by Canadian Journalists for Freedom of Expression, the Fahmy Foundation, the Canadian Association of Journalists, the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press, and Reporters Without Borders.

“Brake’s reporting provided the public with exclusive coverage on a matter of clear public interest, and was cited in his nomination by the Newfoundland and Labrador Human Rights Commission for the 2016 Human Rights Awards. Brake now faces a penalty of up to 10 years in prison for this very same work,” the press release states..

Anybody anywhere should care about these matters, but the charges against Brake should concern Nova Scotians even more, since our province stands to benefit directly from the massive power generating plant through the Maritime Link. Muskrat Falls may help our province meet its green energy targets, but at what cost? Brake’s reporting raised that uncomfortable question, and for doing so alone he deserves our support.

More on the issue of Muskrat Falls and the Nova Scotia connection here.  

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