Document Type

Article

Publication Date

Winter 1998

Abstract

This article focuses on the publication ban issued by a Canadian court in a notorious murder trial, and the popular reaction to the publication ban, as a case study of the new global communications environment. Part I reconstructs the factual circumstances that provoked the ban, as well as the responses of the media, the legal establishment, and the public. Part II examines the ban itself, the constitutional challenge mounted by the media, and the landmark Dagenais decision. Part III reflects on the meaning of the entire episode for law, journalism, and national sovereignty.

The Dagenais decision demonstrates the continued independence from American influence of Canadian judicial thinking, even where the two legal regimes have moved closer together. The publication ban in this case, by influencing the Dagenais decision, ultimately increased the constitutional protections afforded the Canadian media. Furthermore, the Internet has proven its capacity to facilitate civil resistance to ill-considered restrictions on free speech even when conventional news media have been legally restrained. In view of this technological change, journalists in both the United States and Canada would do well to reconsider ethical norms that may interfere with their prime imperative to report the news.

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