Reporter's right to cover story at heart of court case involving Muskrat Falls protest
'Journalists have no greater right to trespass on private property than any other individual': Nalcor lawyer
A Supreme Court judge in Happy Valley-Goose Bay heard arguments Tuesday as to whether the editor of TheIndependent.ca should be held in contempt for breaking a court injunction at the Muskrat Falls site.
"There always has been a responsibility of journalists to tell important stories of great public significance and I feel like we've done that in this case," Justin Brake told CBC News after the hearing.
"As the press ourselves we have to be engaging in this discussion and facilitating it and making sure that the press doesn't lose some of the freedoms it's enjoyed in recent times to be able to tell important stories."
Brake entered the Muskrat Falls site in October 2016 with a large group that was calling for a clear cutting of the Muskrat Falls reservoir to minimize methylmercury buildup.
He stayed inside writing stories and live streaming video for a number of days, leaving voluntarily after he saw his name listed on an order to appear in court to answer to contempt charges, or face arrest.
"The fact that he was a working journalist may have influenced the court and therefore the court should have been made aware of that," Geoff Budden, the lawyer representing Brake said.
Budden asked the court to vacate the order, which included 21 other names, or remove Brake's name from the list. He said now was not the time to discuss a Charter challenge.
"The fact of the rights of a free press being material at this point we argued at this stage of the process as a given," said Budden.
"If this argument is unsuccessful, then we'll have a much more extensive discussion of those issues if it does come to a hearing."
No elevated rights says Nalcor lawyer
Chris King, the lawyer representing Nalcor, called Budden's request for the court order to be withdrawn "completely absurd."
'Journalists have no greater right to trespass on private property than any other individual.- Chris King, Nalcor lawyer
King told the court the fact that Brake was working as a journalist should not have been thought of as material evidence and would have had any influence on the court when it issued the order.
"If Mr. Brake has an argument to make about being a journalist or having a Charter right or Charter freedom of the press, he can make that argument at an eventual hearing of which he was given notice of," said King.
"There is no elevated right to disobey an order of this court," he said.
"Journalists have no greater right to trespass on private property than any other individual and a journalist certainly has no greater right to defy a court order ... than any other individual."
Wants to report
"It's hard to imagine what the greater implications of that might be if that statement were universally applicable to all journalism in Canada," Brake said.
Justin Brake speaks with CBC after the hearing. <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/cbcnl?src=hash">#cbcnl</a> <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/MuskratFalls?src=hash">#MuskratFalls</a> <a href="https://t.co/FOvFlOhS3c">pic.twitter.com/FOvFlOhS3c</a>—@JacobBarkerCBC
"Regardless of the outcome of this ...The fact that this argument is being put forward and being considered and we're having to go through this legal process could have an effect on other journalists in the decisions they might make in a snap, in a moment, whether or not to pursue a story. "
The judge said he would make his decision on March 15.