Publication Bans: A Collision of Rights and Freedoms


I recently attended a legal hearing in Sault Ste. Marie, Ontario and it wasn’t a surprise, when yet again, one of the parties involved in the case requested a publication ban. It was even less of a surprise, when yet again, the presiding judge granted the request.

What is surprising, however, is that rarely are these publication bans challenged by the opposing party. In fact more so, both parties seem to be in agreement that a publication ban is a good call.

Publication bans can serve an important role in the judicial process. Bans prevent the identification of minors and officers involved in undercover operations or witnesses whose lives could be threatened if exposed to the public. Bans are often imposed to ensure an accused’s right to a fair trial.

There is equal value in the media’s freedom of speech and the public’s right to accessible information about the legal system. While courtroom proceedings are open to the public the reality is that members of the media are relied upon, and expected by the public, to watchdog and report back about the judicial process.

The fact that publication bans are handed out in the courts with what seems to be at the same level of frequency that a kindergarten teacher slaps a gold star on students colouring assignments, not only challenges media from performing their job but slides an excluding shield across the public’s view of the judicial landscape.

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