The CEO of the Aboriginal Peoples Television Network (APTN) says the broadcaster will pursue criminal charges if there is further aggressive behaviour towards its female reporters.
In two separate incidents last month, advisors to two different Indigenous organizations were physically aggressive toward reporters with each instance captured on video.
On July 11, Dwayne Bird, communications director for Manitoba’s Peguis First Nation, grabbed APTN producer Beverly Andrews’ microphone at a press conference.
— Kathleen Martens (@katmarte) July 26, 2019
In another incident on July 25, Dakota Kochie, a political advisor to Assembly of First Nations (AFN) National Chief Perry Bellegarde, pushed reporter Amber Bernard aside as she tried to ask questions at a public event.
The network says Kochie previously grabbed Bernard’s arm and microphone during an AFN election event last year in Vancouver.
RSF received reports that political staffers for @AFN_Updates have attempted to obstruct two female reporters from @APTN in the course of their reporting within the past month. Reporters, especially women reporters, must be treated with dignity and respect while on the job. pic.twitter.com/c8lajMLG16
— RSF in English (@RSF_en) August 1, 2019
“The recent incidents of individuals physically intimidating our reporters as they performed their duties are completely unacceptable,” said APTN CEO Jean La Rose, in a statement provided to Broadcast Dialogue. “APTN condemns these actions and any further incidents of this nature will lead APTN to lay criminal charges against the individuals. The MMIWG [Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls] inquiry has challenged the Indigenous leadership to ensure our women are safe and APTN is heading that call.”
APTN turned down Broadcast Dialogue’s request for an interview with Bernard, but the reporter told APTN National News last week that ironically she was asking Bellegarde a question related to allegations of harassment of Indigenous women against Morley Googoo, AFN Regional Chief for Newfoundland and Nova Scotia.
“When it happens the first time you think, ‘maybe it’s the heat of the moment.’ But when it happens again and you’re the only female Indigenous reporter that gets pushed out of the way you have to wonder why,” Bernard said.
Last week, the Native American Journalists Association (NAJA), Reporters Without Borders, Canadian Journalists for Free Expression (CJFE) and the Canadian Association of Journalists (CAJ) added their voices to those condemning the incidents, with CAJ calling the behaviour “shameful” and “disconcerting.”
“In light of the findings and recommendations of the MMIWG Inquiry, this aggressive behavior towards the reporters, both of whom are Indigenous and female is even more shameful,” said Brent Jolly, CAJ vice-president. “While no individual should physically impede the work of a journalist, it is especially disconcerting when the offender is a political or communications aide who should clearly know better.”
The Assembly of First Nations has yet to issue a formal response.
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