Grade 12 Canadian and International Law
Research Essay: The Media and Individual Privacy
Many years ago the term “privacy” had little meaning to many people and especially in many court environments. Since this time, the world has established rules and regulations including privacy rights which act to serve and defend all human beings under the Charter Rights. The Canadian Justice system imposes protection and privacy for citizens dealing with the law. This essay will explore how the role of the court and the public play in the judgement between balancing privacy and freedom of expression. It will take a further look at the history, landmark cases, controversies, social beliefs, and trends of an individuals privacy versus the media. The media infringes on individual rights through issues such as publication bans, freedom of the press, and rights of the accused to a fair trial.
A public ban can be defined as “a tool available to a court intended to protect the identity of complaints and witnesses in court proceedings from being published in print or being broadcast on televesion, film, or radio” (CRCVC, 2011). According to author Kirk Tousav, “judges have long acknowledges the media’s crucial role as a public watchdog” (Canadian Judicial Council, 2007). In 1983 the Ontario Court of Appeal announced that “public accessibility to the courts is a restraint on arbitrary action by those who govern and by the powerful.” However, the media does not have an unlimited right to broadcast all information related to a judicial proceeding in all cases (Canadian Judicial Council, 2007). There are two key competing objectives – the protection of privacy and the constitutional right of all criminal defendants to undergo a fair trial, free of media reports revealing criminal record, inadmissible evidence, or other information that could influence a jury and prejudice a case. (Canadian Judicial Council, 2007).
Freedom of the press means the right to circulate opinions in print without censorship by the government. With the media’s thirst to report a good news story, and a victims or accuser’s need for privacy, there is an ongoing battle of how much can be published of trials. The Charter declares in section 2(b) that “freedom of thought, belief, opinion and expression, including freedom of the press and other media of communication” are fundamental to Canadian society (English, 2012). In this regard The Charter, has had a profound impact on how judges exercise their inherent powers to restrict media coverage. Although publication bans preserve the privacy of the court, journalists are finding that there are too many obstacles that keep them from reporting. An article written by Kathy English in The Star explains that In Canada, judges still impose too many publication bans that stop journalists from reporting on public court proceedings; bureaucrats routinely block requests for public information; control-mad governments shut down access and politicians refuse to speak to journalists, who seek to hold them to account on the public’s behalf (English, 2012). Even though the media is given rights to publicize stories, in some cases publication bans prevent them from doing their job.
The Right to a Fair Trial means that people can be sure that processes will be fair and certain. It prevents governments from abusing their powers. A Fair Trial is the best means of separating the guilty from the innocent and protecting against injustice. When the media reports on the judicial process, freedoms collide. An accused’s right to a fair trial and the media’s right to freedom of expression are in frequent tension. The principle agents of these rights, the media and the judiciary are interdependent of constitutional rights, often in conflict as to where the priority and emphases should be placed in the free press versus a fair trial (Kelly, 2002). The common law recognizes the right of an