CAJ encouraging preemptive action to ensure safety of journalists covering truck convoy

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The Canadian Association of Journalists (CAJ) is encouraging preemptive action to ensure the safety of journalists covering the ongoing trucker’s convoy protesting a vaccine mandate for cross-border truckers and arriving in Ottawa today.

The CAJ says it’s concerned about “several troubling incidents” from journalists in the field ranging from death threats to physical and verbal harassment.

CBC Toronto reporter Dale Manucdoc shared a text exchange Thursday in which a contact for the “Freedom Rally” called him a “slave blooded traitor,” implying the CBC is part a larger conspiracy and going on to say “traitors would swing in time.”

Frank Gunn, a photojournalist with The Canadian Press, reported getting spat on, while a CP24 reporter was chased out of a parking lot and had his tires kicked by convoy supporters. In another incident, the CAJ said the windows of a CBC/Radio-Canada news cruiser were broken.

“Without a doubt Canadians have the right to protest as a key component of our democratic process,” said CAJ president Brent Jolly, in a statement. “Efforts to dehumanize and intimidate journalists from telling stories in the public interest, however, is antithetical to the very notions of ‘freedom’ that are being sought through this protest.”

The CAJ is encouraging newsrooms covering the event to discuss how best to ensure the safety of their staff. Their suggestions include:

  • Filming or photographing from a distance rather than approaching the crowd
  • Working in pairs or small groups
  • Consider assigning reporters with prior experience covering conflict zones
  • Conducting interviews over the phone
  • Minimizing professional equipment that could attract attention or heavy equipment that may make it difficult to relocate quickly
  • Using unmarked vehicles in place of more noticeable media logo-emblazoned vehicles
  • Avoiding live hits from the protest
  • Ensuring editors are doing regular check-ins with reporters if/when they are in the field
  • Having a discussion before assignments about when the safety risk requires withdrawal and pre-identifying safe withdrawal locations
  • Putting editors on speed dial
  • Prioritize your safety as a reporter above trying to get the story

The CAJ is encouraging journalists looking for additional resources on covering protests to consult: Committee to Protect Journalists, Society of Professional Journalists, the Poynter Institute, and the Dart Center for Journalism & Trauma.

“In light of the escalating tensions, we are encouraging reporters and newsroom managers to think of creative alternatives allowing coverage of the protest while protecting journalists being targeted by violence from being hurt,” added Jolly. “It is in times like these — when fringe groups, individuals, and rogue politicians threaten a free press — that citizens rely on us to do our jobs.”

According to the latest report from CTV, the convoy includes 17 full tractor-trailers, 104 tractors without trailers, 424 passenger vehicles and six RVs, with more truckers expected to converge on Ottawa from other parts of the country.