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Censorship Your Rights Online

Publication Bans In A Borderless World 291

slantyyz writes "Wired has a story on a publication ban imposed by a Canadian court on the Canadian media in a well-publicized serial murder case. Now this ban doesn't apply to foreign media per se, but given the borderless nature of the Internet, it leads one to wonder about the efficacy of such a ban. Canadians clearly have access to the American media channels online. The last major publication ban occurred in the early nineties with another Canadian serial murder case involving Paul Bernardo. It was effective to the point that the Internet was still a young medium, but even then, there were a few newsgroups created that were dedicated to spreading rumours about the ongoing trial."
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Publication Bans In A Borderless World

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  • bottom line (Score:3, Interesting)

    by kwilliams ( 617679 ) on Monday January 20, 2003 @06:15PM (#5121566)
    The bottom line is that the internet thrives on freedom and has come to a point where it's nearly impossible to restrict. That's a good thing, in my opinion.
    • Why is that a good thing? There is a reason publication bans are put in effect in the first place: so that the defendant can have an unbiased judge/jury/trial. If the judge/jury's relatives, friends or whatever have access to the information presented in the trial, then that is a risk to the unbiased nature of the trial. How would you like it if you were accused of say, murder, (you are innocent) and all of the evidence is considered by the jury's family, and the pronounce you guilty, because their families think that you did it?

    • "...has come to a point where it's nearly impossible to restrict. That's a good thing, in my opinion."

      Dear Sir,

      From your comment I can only surmise that you have not had access to what is colloquially called "the net" for any reasonable length of time. Any quick purusal of archived news stories will return a littany of stories involving net cencorship, freedom of speech issues, lawsuits over trademarks, DMCA, etc, etc, etc. So "impossible to restrict, is unfortunately, quite "possible". Secondly, whether it's a "good thing" that "restriction is impossible", I could think of "bad things" in my opinion that restriction would curb. Of course, your argument is understood, if say, one is a child-pornographer.

      The internet is quite possible to restrict, see China, Iran, Arkansas.

      Can someone remind me again who and where are these "Canadians", my geography is awful.

    • Re:bottom line (Score:2, Interesting)

      It may not be the popular opinion here, but the Internet is going to have to evolve to respect the laws of sovereign nations. The Canadian law is a perfectly reasonable one; this isn't another example of Chinese censorship

      • Re:bottom line (Score:3, Informative)

        by Zeinfeld ( 263942 )
        The Canadian law is a perfectly reasonable one; this isn't another example of Chinese censorship

        The real issue is whether the constraints on free speech are for a reasonable purpose and for a limited time. Ensuring a fair trial is considered a reasonable purpose in pretty much the whole of the developed world with the exception of the US. The problem is that the press are pretty much in the pocket of the prosecutors, a court journalist knows that the DA is going to be there much longer than any individual defendant, so better make sure you keep in with your sources.

        It is pretty much proven beyond doubt that Ken Starr repeatedly made illegal leaks to the press during his time as 'independent' counsel. If a prosecutor can do that to the President with impunity they can do it to pretty much who they choose.

        A much more serious problem is when politicians use national laws to try to suppress stories that embarass them. This is currently the case with the German Chancellor who has obtained an injunction in the German courts to prevent the Mail on Sunday from publishing allegations of adultery with a television reporter. The mail does not have a web site The Guardian [guardian.co.uk] has a good piece on this case.

        The odd thing in the German case is that the Chancellor is attempting to use the German courts to impose an injunction on a UK newspaper. The reason that it is odd is that if you can't get an injunction under the notoriously plaintif biased British Libel laws then you can't have much of a case. Schroeder appears to be attempting to use the German privacy laws to suppress publication in the UK asserting that the EU is a single jurisdicition. Perhaps so, but in that case the German court would have to apply British law which does not recognise a privacy right.

        There are other cases of cross jurisdictional disputes. The UK has long been a favourite destination for libel plaintifs sicne although 'truth is an absolute defense' the rules of the game are rigged so even if you have proof the jury probably won't hear it.

        While the net allows people to route arround censorship they can only do so if they know they are getting a censored or filtered world view. People in Saudi Arabia, Iran, Iraq, Israel know that their media is censored and they are pretty good at routing arround it if they are one of the minority who want to know what is really going on. If you buy the story promoted by the Murdoch press and the Republican echo chamber that the only fault of the US media is 'liberal bias' you probably won't go elsewhere to find out what is going on.

        That is one reason I like Google news so much, you can compare side by side the US reports of an event with the local reports. You won't find a report of the arms embargo that Britain has imposed against Israel in the US press, but you can find it in the UK and Israeli press. One might think that is kinda an interesting little piece of data.

  • In Israel (Score:5, Interesting)

    by MimsyBoro ( 613203 ) on Monday January 20, 2003 @06:18PM (#5121588) Journal
    I live in Israel and we had a similiar case. About half a year ago there was a terrorist attack on a unit of soldiers and the heads of state (or some other decision maker) decdied that no one is allowed to know any details of the case so that the families of the dead wouldn't find out before the official notice was made. Although people tried to spread the news using the Internet (because the TV networks and radio channeled only kept repeating "At this stage we are not allowed to disclose any more information") but what happened is that the big news sites were contacted by the goverment and kept everything queit and concurrently the Israeil Inteligence Agencies "Quited Down" various small sites and public news site or forums that tried to publish details. Although never officialy admitted the Israeli Intelligence just DOSed a few servers to keep everything quite. So the question in how important is it that the information be kept secret
    • Re:In Israel (Score:2, Insightful)

      The parent post makes a good point. In a world with fewer borders, that information will be carried with greater ease. But that also means that the entity with the most resources can take a path to suppress that information, and who better to do so than the government. While information Israel wants to suppress can make it on the web, Israel can in turn attack that information.

      That isn't saying it's right, but before everyone starts crowing about how wonderful free information is, remember that governments will adapt.

    • the Israeli Intelligence just DOSed a few servers

      Yeah, they just submitted the story to slashdot and the servers went down hard.

  • by Erris ( 531066 ) on Monday January 20, 2003 @06:22PM (#5121613) Homepage Journal
    ... there were a few newsgroups created that were dedicated to spreading rumours about the ongoing trial.

    News is what you get from disinerested third parties who are free to investigate and report news.

    Rumors is what you get when disinterested third parties are not alowed to investigate or report news.

    Rumors are not substitutes for news. They can never be trusted and are always a sign of tyranical control. When rumors are more reliable than news, no one can be sure of anything. That's why the US has a first amendment. It's degradation is a sign of enslavement.

    • by Abcd1234 ( 188840 ) on Monday January 20, 2003 @07:00PM (#5121908) Homepage
      Wow... "news" and "disinterested third parties" in the same sentence. Are you on crack? These "third parties" you speak of are the news agencies whose sole responsibility (especially in the US) is to generate ratings. No, not report the news; generate ratings.

      WRT this case, it is in the media's best interested to villify this guy to the best of their ability. Why? Because villians generate ratings. People tune in because they have a morbid curiosity about the "evil guy who killed all those women". They will do their best to present all the evidence which will present this man as guilty, especially if it can enhance the sensationalism of the case.

      So, the media is representing the case in a manner which biases it's viewers. Guess who those viewers are: potential jurors! As a result, the chance Pickton will receive a fair trial with an unbiased jury is compromised, meaning he is stripped of his rights.
  • are there any studies that can claim to show that pre-trial publicity can actually bias a jury one way or another? Or is the belief that it (pre-trial publicity) may impinge on someone's "right to a fair trial" based solely on principle and reason rather than evidence? (Not that there's anything wrong with that.)
    • are there any studies that can claim to show that pre-trial publicity can actually bias a jury one way or another?

      What sort of controlled experiment could you possibly conduct that would produce any relevant data? I suspect one could examine specific case studies, but that cannot establish a causal relationship or help in identifying any potential corelations.

      Personally, I believe that the accused person's right to a fair trial outweighs the right of the tabloids to report on the gory details. We certainly don't want Pickton's trial to become a media spectacle like the farce that was OJ Simpson's trial.Besides, the judge is only asking that any of the information presented at the pre-trial not be reported until the jury is picked and the trial begins.

      This is not the act of an authoritarian regime. There is no need to get the tinfoil hats out.
    • I think the real reason is not so much to avoid the jury being "tainted" by rumors, but evidence that is deemed inadmissible to the court. For example in the O.J. Simpson trial the general public knew a lot of things that the jury did not, and afterwards after being told what was not shown in court several of them were shocked and said they would not have felt the way they did had they known more.

      The legal system is based on a sort of social Darwinism that basically preaches blindly following the law will eventually lead to better laws through reform. So if then certain evidence was not shown to a jury for legal reasons which allowed a guilty person to run free, then the theory holds that a few extra deaths is in the long run worth it for the refinement it indirectly brings to the legal system.

      Love it or hate it that's the way it is. Personally I hate it.
      • So if then certain evidence was not shown to a jury for legal reasons which allowed a guilty person to run free, then the theory holds that a few extra deaths is in the long run worth it for the refinement it indirectly brings to the legal system.

        Love it or hate it that's the way it is. Personally I hate it.

        A typical reason for excluding evidence is if the police obtained it illegally. Excluding the evidence may let a criminal go free, but admiting the evidence gives the police (and the rest of the government) an incentive to break the law and violate our rights.

        The legal system... preaches blindly following the law

        It is a willfull and rational choice. We are often forced to choose "the lesser of two evils". Letting a criminal person go free is FAR less dangerous than rewarding the government for becoming criminal.

    • I think that banning anything that might be considered "tainting" to the jury is a good thing.

      For innocents (and I don't believe this is the case, considering the XX amount of bodies residing on his property in various locations) it would prevent the jury from being predisposed. For those guilt, when somebody gets nailed in court, it will help prevent some dumbass lawyer from saying "the jury's opinion was tainted, my client didn't get a fair trial."
      When you consider all the things that people can get off for... the less ways to screw it up, the better.
  • by Jason1729 ( 561790 ) on Monday January 20, 2003 @06:23PM (#5121620)
    I remember back when the Bernardo case was going on, people were making trips into the US to get Wired magazine.

    It was banned in Canada because it talked about the publication ban, and just happened to mention that one of the banned pieces of information was that homolka pled guilty.

    It was quite funny, customs set a limit on the number of copies of Wired you could bring across the border. They generally treated it as a controlled substance.

    Wired probably sold more copies to Canadians that month than any other time before then, which made the whole ban ineffective. I had no trouble getting my hands an a copy from a 'dealer' at school

    ProfQuotes [profquotes.com]
    • Publication bans are only effective against stupid people, and although it isn't quite PC to say so, these are exactly who is being targeted by the bans in the first place. It's Joe Moron that believes whatever the wing-nut in the newspaper prints. We need another reading of "War of the Worlds" to thin these people out again.
  • by teamhasnoi ( 554944 ) <teamhasnoiNO@SPAMyahoo.com> on Monday January 20, 2003 @06:24PM (#5121625) Journal
    The US is so insular, the media most likely 'discovers' Canada every couple of months.

    "Wow, did you know there is a WHOLE country just north of us?"

    Considering I have to go to the NPR/BBC to get any sort of non-corporate news, I think that Canada is safe from learning anything about themselves from the U.S. media.

    China on the other hand....

  • by ShieldWolf ( 20476 ) <jeffrankine AT netscape DOT net> on Monday January 20, 2003 @06:25PM (#5121631)
    Being a Canadian citizen I feel that we are within our rights to order a media ban on publication within this country. While it is obvious we can't enforce that ban on the Internet, we can easily ban foreign media from the courtroom if they flaunt our request to not print.

    Having said that, I think the media ban in and of itself is not feasable. It is designed to avoid polluting the jury pool (something that may have been done by post-arrest police leaks in the beltway sniper case), but an information vacuum is filled with rumour. I remember being in first year university where some of my floormates were from the St. Catherines area (southern Ontario), who knew someone, who knew someone who was a cop who viewed the Bernardo tapes. The crap that people heard through the 'broken telephone' was a lot worse than what turned out to be the case (although the reality was god-awful in its own right). The jury pool for Bernardo was destroyed anyway by everyone nattering about rumours, so you have to ask if it was worth it.

  • by Garin ( 26873 ) on Monday January 20, 2003 @06:26PM (#5121636)
    Perhaps they're hoping that the media will just respect the wishes of the court, rather than trying to force the issue through technology?

    Note: there is no ban on the public -being- there, so this isn't a case of a closed trial. This isn't a ban on people talking about it -- just a ban on media publication. The rules are in place simply to give a fair trial.

    In Canada, a criminal suspect's right to a fair, untainted trial trumps the right of the media to descend upon the courtroom like a pack of rabid wolves. This is a murder trial, not public entertainment (no matter what the media would have you believe).
    • "like a pack of rabid wolves."
      way to sensationalize(sp)?

      What if the story is about some pigfarmer who kill people then fed them to his pigs. wouldn't you want to know if the pork/pig you bought had human remains in them?

      • About the rabid wolves, well, hey, if the shoe fits...

        And about the people in the pigs, sure I would want to know. But that's not what has happened. You can bet that if that happened, the products would be quickly and quietly recalled. Incidentally, his pigs were (supposedly) never sold to the general public. But that's irrelevant.

        There are definitely ways to protect the public from that kind of risk without ruining the accused's chance at a fair trial. It doesn't require another OJ Simpson trial to do it.
  • by yroJJory ( 559141 ) <meNO@SPAMjory.org> on Monday January 20, 2003 @06:27PM (#5121646) Homepage
    This is a very interesting case to me, as I recently saw Michael Moore's "Bowling for Columbine," which blames, in not very few words, the sensationalist news media in the US for scaring Americans into needing guns and promoting violence.

    Moore even continues into Canada and discovers that many more guns are owned by Canadians, yet they have a dramatically lower gun homicide rate.

    What has this got to do with this article?

    Well, Moore shows how mundane the Canadian television news is and how it isn't splashing murders all across the television.

    Perhaps these types of media restrictions help in limiting the sensationalist effect.

    (Don't get me wrong: I am fully against censorship of all kinds. Yet, this is an interesting problem to consider.)
    • by slantyyz ( 196624 ) on Monday January 20, 2003 @06:45PM (#5121813)
      Moore's known for the staginess of his work. While clever, funny and immensely thought provoking, his film stretches the truth.

      I live in Toronto, Canada, and if it bleeds, it leads in the local news. Maybe not to the schlocky degree in the US, but murders generally headline the local TV news here.

      And that stuff in the movie about the doors not being locked in Toronto neighborhoods? That's bunk. I don't know many people who leave their doors unlocked in the city.

      Something else that doesn't appear is the gun crime problem in Toronto. Just like Moore's Columbine movie, a 7 year old girl recently shot her brother with the illegal gun of her older brother.

      I love Michael Moore's work, but it's also propaganda with an agenda. Don't believe everything you see on TV and the movies.
      • I live in Toronto, Canada, and if it bleeds, it leads in the local news.

        True enough. Perhaps it helps that there are so few murders in Toronto compared to similarly sized U.S. cities. In the last five years, the homicide rate has been quite stable [torontopolice.on.ca], falling between 49 and 60 cases. (Looks like statistical noise, not a change in crime rate--national stats bear out such a conclusion.) There have been three homicides year to date. Perhaps people hear about enough homicides (about one per week--except that homicides include suicides, which usually don't make the news) to have a strong aversion to firearms, but not so many that they feel the need to arm themselves. Just a hypothesis.

        Something else that doesn't appear is the gun crime problem in Toronto.

        Although the fraction of homicides committed with guns has increased, the total number of homicides is not much higher. I don't have stats for other crimes. I still feel very safe walking the streets of Toronto. Compare with any U.S. city of three million people--crime rates are three to five times higher south of the border.

        • While I agree with all of your arguments, the point I was making was relative to the perception Michael Moore was trying to create about Toronto in "Bowling for Columbine".

          Obviously Toronto's not nearly as bad as many American cities. But it's also not the trusting, gun-crime free utopia that Moore attempts to portray.
    • But it's not censorship, IMO. All details of the trial ARE made available after the fact. The information isn't hidden, it's just withheld for the duration of the trial.
    • Being Canadian, after seeing the move I went to look for some numbers.. There are lots of guns in Canada, but just 1/10th the number of handguns per capita... And handguns are the worst for murders. I can also say that Moore should have tried looking at a TV network other than the CBC (thats our PBS/NPR) and the private TV networks have basicly two kinds of programming, american soaps and "local news" (basicly about the crimes and car accidents). So its not that different.. (This is true outside Quebec, in Quebec as ppl speak French and have a different culture, they have much more local programming).

      Whatever Micheal Moore wants to think, the problem in the US is massive gun ownership and as long as the 2nd ammendement is not repealed you will continue to be 10 times more likely to be murdered with a gun than other western coutries..
      Let me repeat ... 10 times more likely...
    • Thats why there are so many car accidents here in the Bay Area. KGO constantly has traffic reports and tells the local populace every 8 minutes of all the traffic accidents in the area.

      If the media would just stop talking about these accidents we would see a lot less of them in the streets. They sensationalize the accidents to the point that just the thought of driving in the bay area could cause a fatal crash or at least a very time consuming stall on the bay bridge.

      I mean of course the media is talking about these accidents all the time - and that is an obvious additive cause to the pandemic proportions of annual accidents rather than the fact that people are just bad drivers who are rude and practically alseep while driving. Who would think that the root cause for any major sociotal problem would actually be the *society* rather than just some periphery group.

      The reason we have violence and murder and bad crime (tm) is not so simple a problem as to be attached to something so easy as the media.

      Sure the media sucks ass in most of what they do - sure they promote the things that the report on. Thats how marketing works - and thats what they are doing. Marketing the bad stories to us for our attention. The media is out to get your attention - they want you watching what they are showing you.

      but there are so many factors behind why the world is the way it is (sick) right now - and any one organization cannot be blamed for the whole mess. (although I think media is responsible for a lot of the mental illness (on a societal level) that we see in this world)

      we need to look at all aspects of our society to begin to fix reality - but at this point the systems and rules, laws, authorites, beliefs religions, emotions and people are too entrenched in the way they are that the only hope of a monumental shift in the way human society works (for the better or for the worse) will only come out of catasrophe. and thats a sad thought.
    • The difference is in Canada most guns are hunting rifles and shotguns. We have far fewer handguns than in the US, per capita.

      Most guns involved in crime in Canada are handguns stolen in the US and smuggled across the border.

    • Moore's law for reporters:

      No matter what happens, always report that it's twice as bad as it was 18 months ago.

  • When you've got a medium that transcends national boundaries in such a way it makes something of a mockery of such rulings.
    This isn't the first time this has happened (look at the Gutnick defamation case in Australia - talked about on Slashdot)(http://yro.slashdot.org/article.pl?sid=0 2/12/10/0019232&mode=thread&tid=123)
    or even here in New Zealand where a US millionaire turned up with drugs in his suitcase - the judge granted him name suppression and sent him on his way, I would guess safe in the knowledge that his name would be published online or in his home state and quite happy to see that happen (http://www.idg.net.nz/webhome.nsf/UNID/C185FC6B9E 8BCB5DCC256861006848B1).

    Can we come up with some international laws that will allow the Net to continue to function as it does today (when it does) despite national bans like this?

    Should we have harmonised laws around the world and if so whose laws should we use? The US legislation? European?
  • by stratjakt ( 596332 ) on Monday January 20, 2003 @06:30PM (#5121676) Journal
    Ban the foreign press, make all spectators sign a legally binding gag order. Make sure these contracts are binding across borders.

    In a more perfect world, journalists would respect the wishes of the court and it would be a non issue.

    There's a reason why camera's aren't allowed in a Canadian court, and judges issue publication bans. It taints the outcome of the trial. Now of course journalists would have you believe that "freedom of the press" trumps the "right to a fair trial", but it's simply not true.

    The Bernardo case hits close to home, one of the girls bodies was dumped not more than about 10k from where I lived at the time. (I can't remember if it was Leslie Mohaffe or Kristen French) I remember the paranoia, the searching for the cream-colored Camaro, something I haven't experience again until just recently with the DC area sniper's spree ('cuz I live near DC now).

    Anyways, there really was enough media exposure on the trial. I followed it in the paper and on the news every day.

    Paul and his wife Karla Homolka videotaped their rape, torture and murder of the girls. These tapes were shown in court, and the judge ruled that the contents of the tapes were never to leave the courtroom. The reasons were obvious enough. The public is not served at all by details about how these girls were raped, humiliated and murdered.

    One of the American TV tabloids of the time (A Current Affair?) aired excruciating details in one of their little shock pieces. It frankly pissed a lot of people off. There was no reason to do it, except to once again exploit the victims for a few ratings points.

    Anyways, I digress.

    Keeping the press out of the courtroom is a good idea, IMO. The 3 ring circus' that plays out in big American trials is an absolute joke. I'm absolutely convinced OJ would have been convicted in a Canadian court.

    • I'm absolutely convinced OJ would have been convicted in a Canadian court.

      While I think it is pretty clear OJ was guilty, I also think it was proven beyond doubt that the police planted evidence (remember the blood spot on the folded sock, and Fuhrman lying on the record?).

      The legal standard in cases of evidence tampering is for the judge to throw out the entire case, much as the jury did.

    • During the Bernado trial I was living with a good friend of mine who happend to be Bernado's first cousin. Media ban or not, we would come home to find 10 messages on the machine from reporters and 2 camped out on the doorstep. The level of media attention was so huge they even wanted to interview the roomate of the cousin of Bernado. Jerks.

      The amount of pain that family went through was massive. Thank God that the rights of the victims (and accused) outweigh the rights of the media.

    • by DDX_2002 ( 592881 ) on Monday January 20, 2003 @07:59PM (#5122517) Journal
      Ban the foreign press, make all spectators sign a legally binding gag order. Make sure these contracts are binding across borders.
      Contract is unnecessary, as they're already committing a criminal offense if they break the ban. Getting something in writing just makes it a lot easier to prosecute.

      You should read the reported comments of the judge and lawyers in this case - they're *not* happy, and mentioned some US journalists by name in the warning from the bench. Those people are walking on very thin ice. Don't forget that this is a preliminary inquiry - the comparable procedure in the US is the Grand Jury... which is behind closed doors and not open to the public, and if you publish anything about grand jury evidence or deliberation, you're going to jail for a long time. In Canada, our system is actually more open. The public can attend and see that justice is being done - it removes the star chamber feel of grand jury deliberations, because the general public can attend and make sure things are legit - but this doesn't mean that you wouldn't taint the jury pool if salacious details were widely reported. Don't forget, this isn't a full trial right now - the prosecution has a laughably low burden to have this set down for trial, and will show just enough evidence to get there. The defence may not even try to fight back - why give anything away? The prelim is really a tool for the defense to get a free go round, seeing the prosecution's case and crossexamining their witnesses. The defendant doesn't really get to present a defense or explain - if there's any evidence at all, he'll be bound over for trial. As a result, any reporting would present a very skewed picture of the legal landscape facing the defendant. The system remains in place because the defense bar fights tooth and nail to keep it, and because occasionally charges *are* dismissed, and that makes the cost of the prelim in the other cases worth it by saving the cost, embarassment and waste of time of trying an obviously innocent person.

      • Even if this was a full trial the press can be banned from publishing details.

        But, so what? The ban is lifted at the end of the trial, and, as you mentioned, the public can attend.

        And, having read the accounts in the American press of the Bernardo trial I can't say that it bothers me the banned publication till afterwards. (And, having read the Canadian coverage afterwards it was much LESS sensational and a lot more appropriate coverage.

    • Keeping the press out of the courtroom is a good idea, IMO. The 3 ring circus' that plays out in big American trials is an absolute joke. I'm absolutely convinced OJ would have been convicted in a Canadian court.

      Perhaps you are right, but the OJ outcome was not because of the media, but rather because the jurors were completely uneducated. After the trial, it became clear that they had not understood the very basics of DNA, and thus completely disregarded these arguments.

      Unfortunately, this is quite typical because people that are smart and/or educated are usually the first to be thrown out when the lawyers examine potential candidates. I was called once but when I told them I went to Caltech it took them about 0.3 s of deliberations to conclude that I was not the right person to have anything to say about a patent dispute.

  • This site [xnewswire.com] had posted the original story [canada.com] back on 16 Jan. It's about a British Columbia pig farmer who murdered dozens, maybe more, women and fed them to his pigs. The pork producers are also trying to get the story quashed.
    • by sholden ( 12227 ) on Monday January 20, 2003 @07:24PM (#5122122) Homepage
      It is not "about a British Columbian pig farmer who murdered...".

      It is about a British Columbian pig farmer who *IS ACCUSED* of murdering...

      There's a big difference between the two statements, the article you linked used the correct one, you ignored the assumption of innocence, which is probably the most important concept in a fair justice system.
  • by Fjord ( 99230 ) on Monday January 20, 2003 @06:33PM (#5121703) Homepage Journal
    I recall back during the 1997 Federal Elections, there was a small, but valid issue with blacking out election results because of the internet. Because of the timezones, the polls in Ontario, Quebec, Nova Scotia and Newfoundland were closed and estimated while the ones in British Columbia were still open. Without blacking these results out it can cause apathy among voters for the winning party and impetous for potential voters for the losing parties. This is enough to sway the vote to the minority party.

    During this election, many of my friends were in IRC channels full of hundreds of people (not enough to sway the vote federally, but it could have effected a riding) on either coast talking about the results. Now with Candians checking American or British papers, it's on a scale not known before.

    There are going to be more and more issues like this, but this is what happens when you empower the public in the way that the internet has. I for one will take the freedom the internet has given back to us and fight attempts at clamping down on it, even when i works against a case of individual right such as this, and voter's rights such as the election example given. We've been given somethng we've never had before and taken back a lot of freedom in the last few years. We can let it be pushed back like so many other freedoms we've lost.
    • Living in Western Canada, not many things piss me off more than seeing Peter Mansbridge come on the TV at 8PM (when the polls close) and the first words out of his mouth are "Welcome Western Canada to our live election coverage, the Liberals are your new majority government"

      For those non-Canadians in the crowd, a very large percentage of the Canadian population lives in the East. And they all vote Liberal. So by the time the election-coverage-blackout is lifted in Western Canada, the government has already been elected, and all that is left is fighting for the official opposition.

    • I don't understand why they try to enforce some stupid and unworkable blackout system when there's a simple solution. All they have to do is have the polling stations open for exactly 24 hours and sychronize them.

  • by Target Drone ( 546651 ) on Monday January 20, 2003 @06:34PM (#5121705)
    CBC has a good article that explains how publication bans [www.cbc.ca] work in Canada.
    • This article briefly mentions my challenge of the constititutionality of section 329 of the Canada Elections Act. S.329 prohibits the "premature transmission" of election results.

      The constitutional hearing is scheduled in Vancouver provincial court at 9:30 AM, January 28 2003 at 222 Main Street, Vancouver.

      For more information, visit ElectionResultsCanada.com [electionre...canada.com].
      • Damn...I wish I was still in BC so I could support the charge against you.

        The law is in place to prevent the groupthink that would occur if the numbers were available. Everybody wants to be on the winning side, so if the Liberals are winning on the east coast, some more impressionable people (read majority of the population) who were planning to vote for the Canadian Alliance may change their minds. It defeats the purpose of the democratic process.

  • Obviously, Canada puts more importance to somebody's right to a fair trial, unencumbered by media babblings and ranting than into freedom of the owners of presses.

    After all, unlike the USA, Canada is still the british villain...

  • Less is More (Score:2, Insightful)

    by riqnevala ( 624343 )
    "Shut up" often leads to [fierce] conversation.

    Try drilling a hole to a wall and write "don't peek thru..." above it. 8)

  • by frovingslosh ( 582462 ) on Monday January 20, 2003 @06:42PM (#5121780)
    Read the story

    Judge David Stone's stern warning to three foreign reporters: Honor the publication ban or risk being barred from the courtroom. So all that is being said is that, if these reporters publish, they can be barred, in Canada, from a Canada courtroom. He's hardly trying to overreach his authority.

  • This is typically done in Canada and ensures a fairer trial. I'm often surprised and sickened at the tabloid quality of the "unbiased" american (television) media. Everything turns into a circus. Well, sorry Canadians try to put the right to a fair trial above televison ratings.

    After the case is over, we(anyone) will have full access to the details of the case, and the unauthorized bios, tv specials, etc will come flying out with every little sordid detail.

    But for now let's let the case be tried without the play-by-play on every freaking media outlet, with their own special little catch phrase, bi-line and "Pig-Man Hooker Serial Killer" graphic.

    Yes, it will be hard(impossible) in a borderless internet media world to "ban" this. But at least the internet media is far less in your face than television, ie. it has to be sought out, it wont accidently be overheard by a juror flipping through tv channels. Makes sense to me.
  • by Jboy_24 ( 88864 ) on Monday January 20, 2003 @06:44PM (#5121801) Homepage
    then the public's right to know immediatly.

    I am a ex-pat Canadian living in the SF Bay area. One thing that often has irked me is the release of 'facts' in regard to a criminal investigation/case before the accused is put to trial or even arrested. It is often assumed that the public's right to know and the ability of a free press to report is based on the giving the public the 'information' the fastest. Somehow, the press's rush to publicize anything that is found in a criminal trial is deemed more important then the accused right to a fair trial and the freedom from vigililantism that can come from the premature release of 'facts'. Actually given the use of the press by police agencies in the US to 'leak' information regarding an investigation that soils the reputation of the innocent (Richard Jewell), this speed of information disemination actually harms the operation of a free society.

    In Canada, it is reasonably assured that the police won't release ANY information regarding an on-going investigation before that information can be presented at trial. So it should be. In Canada, the judiciary often limits what the press can write about only during a limited finite period. Again, so it should be, as long as someone's life is at stake in a proceding, we as a public, can wait for the gossip.

    As well, since this example from Canada is in the pre-trial phase a simple US approximization is the Grand Jury, who's proceding ares are often secret forever.

    I say to the court, throw out the foriegn correspondants, let the public wait to hear the juicy gossip from the court room! To the people who deam this a infrigment on their rights, wait until you are accused and tried in the press! Ask then where your rights of 'innocent until proven guilty' are and see how much work it is for you to prove your innocence for the rest of your life!

    Why oh why do we need to know NOW? Let the officers tell us in their own words what happened when they can be cross examined by the accused!

    As the US enforces the 'Patriot Act' and its ilk we will see how prominatly the false accusations will be printed and how hidden the retractments.
  • by YouOverThere ( 50298 ) on Monday January 20, 2003 @06:48PM (#5121825)
    Remember the publication ban is to prevent tainting a jury. So the accused can get A Fair Trial. I'm sure if you were accused awaiting trial, you would like the same treatment.

    It's is important to remember the judge who ruled, allowing media in to the court did so full well knowing about the internet and the publication violations that occured in the Paul Bernado case. The Media was allowed in anyway, he didn't have to let them in. It would be in the media's best interest to temper their desire to publish details until such time as the ban is lifted, if ever.

    I admit as a Canadian I violated the ban and read publications about Paul Bernado. I read the detailed court proceedings. I wish I never had. Steven King could never have dreamed up the horrors that those 2 girls lived and ultimatly died during. Bernado (and his wife) are truly scum of the earth. That publication ban was in place because the judge (rightly so) beleived the testomony and video footage should never be seen in public. The results would damage the victims familys further. Remebering they had to watch the video of their little girls dying...Something you have no need or right to know/see.

    Robert Picton is suspected of killing 55+ women (the count grows higher weekly it seems). 15 have evidence enough to prove to go to trial. The Police have been sifting through dirt looking for small bone fragments, so they can find more victims to charge him with. The victim's families would like to get answers to their loved ones disappearance. They want closure. This can be jeporidised by a tainted jury.

    The judge is not trying to be difficult, most people were surprised that the media was allowed at all. But if media breaks that ban, all media will be removed from the court. It is the judge's trial, and the media has no right to be in there. But Pickton does have the right to a fair trial. So the media should be on their best behaviour.

  • by NewtonsLaw ( 409638 ) on Monday January 20, 2003 @06:51PM (#5121859)
    I covered this story yesterday (Sunday US-time) in my daily interent commentary and also highlighted the crazy situation taking place in Europe right now.

    It seems that German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder has succeeded in obtaining a injuction from a Hamburg court that forbids a UK newspaper from pubilshing details about an alleged extramarital affair.

    The UK newspaper have basically thumbed their nose at the order, as did another UK paper [thescotsman.co.uk] which went a step further and published not just in print but on the Web as well.

    My column on this matter can be found here [aardvark.co.nz] if anyone's interested. Check out today's edition as well: When Microsoft Owns Your ISP [aardvark.co.nz]
  • by SoVi3t ( 633947 ) on Monday January 20, 2003 @06:52PM (#5121861)
    This case has already gotten a tremendous amount of publicity. For those who don't know, awhile back TONS of prostitutes went missing in that B.C. area, and after an investigation, the cops found alot of corpses in this pig farm. After the media circus kicked in, the judge put a ban on it, much like the Bernardo case. However, during the Bernardo case, alot of facts from the case still slipped out, and after the case was complete, everybody knew what happened anyways. On a side note, the Bernardo case is perhaps one of the most bungled cases, outside of the OJ Simpson case...
  • i know that censorship is bad, however there are some cases where it is valid and there is a need for it. one of these prime examples is when someone's right to a fair trial is at stake.

    i am canadian and i don't think that it's an overly bad idea to censor like that until the trial starts, they are only banning the media until the trial begins, if i'm not wrong the same thing happened with the oj trial or at least they tried to stop it. i remember it being a big issue cause of all the media coverage that they moved the trial because they couldn't find an impartial jury and the same with the rodney king trial.

    don't get me wrong i'd love to see that guy go to jail for a long time, same thing with paul bernado. i know that the crown, the government's lawyers, wants to see him locked up just as much as the rest of us do. they just want to make sure that he gets a fair trial so he can be locked up and the key tossed away, would you really like a person like that to be set free cause of an impartial jury?

    as for the reporters, well if they really want they can remove their work visa and they have to leave the country, it's a priviledge for them to be here, not a right.

    i know of a few other times the american government censors information. just go through the yro of this website and i'm sure you'll find several articles dealing with it. or how about looking through the jfk files and such, notice the liberal use of the black magic marker on the documents or all the stuff after sept 11.

    so don't go jumping down canada's back when they are just trying to get the guy locked up and the key tosses away. we're just going through all the steps our legal process deams neccessary for a fair and impartial trial.
  • Canada (Score:2, Interesting)

    by n1ywb ( 555767 )
    Many Canadien population centers (Toronto, Montreal) are well within range of USA radio and TV broadcasts. I live in Vermont and frequently enjoy the high-quality classic rock programming on CHOM FM and the hilarious BBC comedies on CBC.
  • Whether or not the court's action is a good one (and I think there are good arguments for both sides), I can't help but figure that if this were done in the US (against a Canadian or European paper), we'd never hear the end of how the "arrogant US is spreading its laws across the world!" and how "that usurper Bush is taking away the last of our rights!"
  • The legal and social implications are separate things here.

    1. The judge has no fantasies about his jurisdiction. He's doing what he can, which is to tell the journalists that, if they want courtroom access at all, the information had better not show up on their employers' websites. If some newspaper wants to compile their reports from second-hand rumors just so they can try to show up the court, they can. Then their reputations go down the tubes, and the judge can still ban the media from the courtroom, which is his perogative, instead of being nice like he is now.
    2. This kind of situation is exactly why foreigners have less freedom than citizens. A foreigner can come in, flout the local standards, then easily return to someplace where no relevant jurisdiction can get him. What do you think would happen to Canadian reporters if they pulled stunts like that with King County? Some pushy jerk would probably call INS and wait for the reporters to cross back into Washington state.
    3. Both Canada and the U.S. recognize the need for restrictions to minimize tainting of juries. "Standing up" for your particular interpretation of free press rights is more attractive when you think you won't have to work for it and you'll get an unfair advantage over your rivals too. From what I can see, the Seattle reporters are doing things they wouldn't even bother arguing for on their home turf-- they're doing something that's wrong by their own country's standards and using a minor loophole to one-up their competition for a few days, even though they (should) know that they've probably ruined it for everyone else from now on, including people who might have been able to use that advantage for something important later.
  • by AnimeFreak ( 223792 ) on Monday January 20, 2003 @07:18PM (#5122049) Homepage
    I live 10 KM south of the city where these 15 (so far, there are 54 missing) women were found and I am also 10 KM from the Canada/United States border. I pick up, on the air, KVOS, KIRO, KCPQ, KING, and KOMO, and they should abide by Canadian law and not broadcast any information. Luckly, they abide by the law in the television form, but they have gone to the point of putting it on their websites with a warning stating that this information not be read by those in British Columbia (they don't mention Canada even though the publication ban affects the country as a whole).

    If any of you out there think this is wrong, you guys are thick-headed. This publication ban is intended to protect what is left of the integrity of this trial. It is bad enough that the public is generally skewed towards the accused even though, through a slim-chance nonetheless, that he might be innocent.
    Lee Tien, senior staff attorney with the Electronic Frontier Foundation, said the right to a fair trial versus the journalists' right to gather and publish information has always been a sticky situation. Debate on the issue dates back before the Internet.
    The trial should always take precedence over the journalists as the journalists are much more powerful in skewing the public than the lawyers, etc. To say a journalist should have the right to put whatever he/she wants out is completely wrong.
    • "I pick up, on the air, KVOS, KIRO, KCPQ, KING, and KOMO, and they should abide by Canadian law "

      umm, I don't think we're under any obligation to 'abide canadian law'.

      However, you do habe the option of not listening to American stations.

      Of course, if canadians had so much respect for fair trial, they just wouldn't watch anything that might taint them. Somehow I have the feeling that if I posted this information on a website, I'd get 1000's of canadian visitors.
  • Mark Twain sez: (Score:3, Interesting)

    by bperkins ( 12056 ) on Monday January 20, 2003 @07:25PM (#5122141) Homepage Journal
    The jury system puts a ban upon intelligence and honesty, and a premium upon ignorance, stupidity and perjury. It is a shame that we must continue to use a worthless system because it was good a thousand years ago...I desire to tamper with the jury law. I wish to so alter it as to put a premium on intelligence and character, and close the jury box against idiots, blacklegs, and people who do not read newspapers. But no doubt I shall be defeated--every effort I make to save the country "misses fire."
    - Mark Twain Roughing It
  • by NewtonsLaw ( 409638 ) on Monday January 20, 2003 @07:29PM (#5122207)
    There's a very good article [nzherald.co.nz] in today's New Zealand Herald which provides a legal-professional's point of view.

    The writer is a (former?) judge and part-time lecturer in law and IT at the University of Auckland.
  • (and i should add, as a canadian), this publication ban only exists for the preliminary hearing, and exists to try and keep potential jurors unbiassed. Living in Manitoba (as opposed to British Columbia), it doesn't exist on local stations that aren't broadcast in BC. And its an open hearing: anyone in BC can attend, they just can't publish what's going in (at least, details). So its not some secret trial, which is what people are probably all in hysterics about.

    So, when the trial starts, everything will be broadcast in OJ-style clarity in every media outlet in canada, and many in the US and around the world. So i'm not at all concerned.
  • Well,

    in germany people are not that wild after free speach as in USA probably ...

    We just recently had a fatal incident of "free speach" in the sense that important information was disclosed by the police itself.

    We had a case of triple murder in Heidelberg, a medical and his wife and an employee got killed.

    Reasons unknown as no real other crime happended and the murder was real cruel.

    Anyway, the murderer used the credit card to withdraw money on a automatic teller machine.

    This news was disclosed a day, or even some hours, after he did it.

    Nothing special so far ... but: everybody knows that a teller machine is watched with a video camara. The tapes are kept for a limited period of time and deleted later.

    So the police wanted to tell the public: we get him soon.

    In fact the police telled the murderer: idiot, next time you draw money we will get you!

    However: the first video camara was broken or covered with dirt or something. The tape is useless. The murderer did not draw any further moeny as even the news "tape broken" was published some days ago.

    The murderer would be incredible stupid to use the credit card again ...

    My conclusion is: it might make sense to not disclose informations during the time where a criminal is not cought.

    And my personal top interest is to get him, not to be informed 5 minutes after every step he made that the police was not able to get him so far.

  • The court order only extends to the internet in an incedental way. It actually comes from what's called personal jurisdiction. It really applies directly to people inside of his courtroom.

    The ban does not apply to all information about this case whatsoever.
    It only applies to information gleaned from inside of his courtroom. As such it really only applies to (would-be) reporters who step into his courtroom to listen to the hearing -- and then only until the trial is over, or the evidence comes out in full court.

    In other words, it's completely legal for me to tell you that Picton is accused of luring women (mostly prostitutes and/or drug users) to his pig farm where they were tortured, (probably) raped, killed and then stuffed through a meat grinder (or something similar), with their ground-up remains possibly being fed to his pigs before being spread around his farm.

    I can tell you that, even though I live in Vancouver, because the information I have was gleaned via non-court sources. The minute I step into the courtroom, however, anything that I learn in there is Not-For-Publication. The internet just happens to be one of the methods by which I'm not allowed to publish that information. This would include sending it to my news editor in The States who then puts it onto an Internet site. If I glean information from somebody inside the courtroom, I'm similarly bound to non-disclosure (or my source is, at least, bound to ensure that I don't then publish it).

    To give you an idea as to just how personal this 'personal jurisdiction' is: The judge specifically named some reporters in the room at the time who he considered to be problematic.
    ".... you have been warned"

The road to ruin is always in good repair, and the travellers pay the expense of it. -- Josh Billings