National Post

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Friday, June 25, 1999

High court allows journalists to enter with tape recorders
Parliamentary Press Gallery, Supreme Court reach deal

Andrew McIntosh
National Post

OTTAWA - After years of lobbying by Canadian reporters, the Supreme Court of Canada has for the first time agreed to let journalists carry tape recorders into its main courtroom.

Journalists covering the country's top court will be allowed to use tape recorders as a form of "electronic note-taking" and to use tapes for news broadcasts under an agreement reached between the Parliamentary Press Gallery and the Supreme Court.

Until now, reporters were permitted to record proceedings in an adjacent press room, but were not able to carry their equipment into the court itself, even though the proceedings are frequently broadcast on a specialty cable television channel.

By letting reporters take the electronic tools of their trade into court, the Surpreme Court is setting an example for courts around the world, said Cristin Schmitz, an Ottawa correspondent for The Lawyer's Weekly newspaper.

"The justices are bending over backwards to allow Canadians to hear and see what's going on inside their court," she said. "Canada's highest court is at the forefront of this area, compared to other high courts around the world."

Security concerns have traditionally encouraged the courts to bar tape recorders, although in recent years, lower level courts, particularly in Quebec, have relaxed their rules.

The Supreme Court has also decided to relax rules governing the broadcast of proceedings in cases where a publication ban has been made by a lower court judge on the identity or name of one of the parties.

The broadcast ban was, until now, a blanket one, and prevented the broadcast of any part of the case.

But under the new policy, the Supreme Court will allow a "delayed" broadcast of the proceedings in such cases to enable media organizations to edit out any mention of banned names or details.


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