CFE Releases Report: Chilling Free Expression in Canada – Canadian Journalists’ and Writers’ Views on Mass Surveillance

A survey conducted by the Centre for Free Expression, in collaboration with the Canadian Association of Journalists and PEN Canada, finds writers and journalists have serious concerns about mass surveillance, resulting in some now self-censoring their own activities.

Chilling Free Expression in Canada reports the results of a survey of 129 Canadian writers and journalists between May 27 and June 20, 2016.

Close to a quarter of writers and journalists surveyed reported that they avoid writing about certain topics because of government and corporate surveillance. A fifth said they refrain from conducting internet searches or visiting web sites on topics that may be considered controversial or suspicious.

“Writers and journalists are society’s eyes and ears,” says Centre for Free Expression Director James L. Turk. “If fear of surveillance is causing them to self-censor, the public is being denied important stories, and we are the poorer for it.”

More than 70 per cent of respondents agreed that most Canadians are unconcerned or unaware about government surveillance. "That has to change," says CAJ President Nick Taylor-Vaisey. "We know that police actively spy on journalists, and that whistleblowers who trust reporters to protect their identities will now be less willing to come forward," he says. "Canadians must understand the gravity of that ongoing threat to the public interest."

“The freedom of expression, not just of writers and journalists, but of all Canadians, needs constant and vigilant defence,” says Grace Westcott, Executive Director of PEN Canada. “Mass government surveillance effectively encroaches on that freedom, to all our cost.”

LINK TO FULL REPORT

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