Canadian Journalists for Free Expression (CJFE) issued a release today on Monday to spread word of its decision to conduct a survey of journalists who believe their freedom of expression was compromised by police/security personnel during the G-20 security operation in Toronto. The information that gets collected will result in a public report by CJFE. Given the serious and unprecedented nature of the complaints by journalists whom have gone public in the last seven days, CJEF has emphasized the significance of each and every response. CJEF is asking G20 journalists to respond as soon as possible by completing the survey at this URL.
"So you think you're a journalist. You won't be a journalist after we bring you to jail," the 29-year-old recounted an officer saying to her in her videotaped public statement. "You're going to be raped. We always like the pretty ones. We're going to wipe the grin off your face when we gang bang you. We know how the Montreal girls roll."
At least four journalists, Amy Miller, Daniel McIsaac, Jesse Rosenfeld and Lisa Walter, have filed complaints with the province, alleging physical assaults, threats of sexual violence and subsequent violation of basic rights while being detained by police during the Toronto G20 summit.
"We had stopped to cover it because these were young people who were being detained and searched....despite having my press pass visible the whole time, it was ripped off, thrown down and [I] was throttled by the neck" (Amy Miller, June 29 2010).
Miller alleged one of the arresting officers repeated the threat when she was at the detention centre. She was released about 12 hours later without any charges.
According to Jesse Rosenfeld's complaint, the Toronto-based freelance journalist for the Guardian was covering a group of demonstrators in front of the Novotel hotel in downtown Toronto on Saturday evening when he said he was attacked by police.
"Riot police arrived shortly after protesters gathered at the hotel at 10:30 p.m. and boxed in the crowd, saying everyone would be arrested", Rosenfeld said. "When he went to ask whether journalists would also be arrested, the 26-year-old said two officers recognized him from a day earlier as "the loud mouth kid that was mouthing off to me yesterday."
According to Rosenfeld's complaint, the Toronto-based freelance journalist for the Guardian was covering a group of demonstrators in front of the Novotel hotel in downtown Toronto on Saturday evening when he said he was attacked by police.
"Riot police arrived shortly after protesters gathered at the hotel at 10:30 p.m. and boxed in the crowd, saying everyone would be arrested", Rosenfeld said. "When he went to ask whether journalists would also be arrested, the 26-year-old said two officers recognized him from a day earlier as "'the loud mouth kid that was mouthing off to me yesterday.'"
That was when he said he was grabbed by two officers, punched in the stomach and back and repeatedly kneed in the ribs.
Rosenfeld said he yelled to them that he was not resisting arrest and that he was a journalist. He was arrested for breach of the peace and taken to the detention centre in the city's east end at midnight where he stayed until his release 18 hours later with no charges.
Lisa Walter, 41, an indie magazine writer for Our Times, said she was thrown to the ground and cuffed as she and another independent journalist covered the same group that was being arrested in downtown Toronto on Sunday afternoon, according to her complaint. She said officers mocked her, saying her credentials were "fake," questioned whether she was a man and the sergeant who ordered her arrest called her a "f-ing dyke" and "a douche bag," her complaint states.
According to McIsaac's complaint, he was covering the same protest as Amy Miller for the Canadian Youth Climate Coalition. He said he was with Miller when he was assaulted and arrested by police. He was taken to a hospital after telling police that he had a pacemaker and then later transferred to the detention centre. The 27-year-old was also released later without being charged.
"If peaceful protesters and journalists engaged in peaceful coverage are treated this way, this is a sad day for democracy," said an attourney for the four journalists in a joint-release. "My clients are seeking accountability for what appears to be a serious overreaction by some police officers."
Toronto's police Chief Bill Blair said he'll defend all of the officers' actions, particularly since most of the demonstrations and arrests were caught on video.
Once again, the CJEF survey and related contact information for any journalist with questions, concerns or other information are online at http://www.cjfe.org/releases/2010/30062010g20survey.html