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In today’s Globe and Mail, Lawrence Martin has underscored the “crisis in journalism”. His opinion piece, “A crisis that cries out for a public inquiry”, presents an important question about the state of the “fourth establishment” and its role in democratic government. He describes the root of the problem as follows:
Today, we have a crisis in the journalism industry unprecedented in scope. A media implosion. Newspapers being reduced to digital editions, large numbers losing their jobs, circulation falling, ad revenues plunging, near monopoly ownership of big-city dailies, the old business model in a state of collapse.
He goes on to observe that “it’s a joke to think that a healthy democracy can be restored given the continuing depletion of the one industry that holds business and government to account”. He asks “[i]f traditional print journalism cannot be sustained, what fills the void?” Good question.
Paintings found on wall of Chauvet Cave – made circa 30,000 BCE
Recently, last Friday March 6th in fact, I had the privilege of speaking about freedom of expression to the Association des juristes d’expression française de la Colombie britannique. Normally, I would take my speaking notes and just convert them into a blog post. This is not possible here because first, my notes were “en français” and second, I undoubtedly butchered that otherwise beautiful language. This is part of the reason why there has been a bit of a lull between posts – I have been too busy reactivating old French language brain cells to prepare a new post.
This post is another in the series of posts in which I have explored the new Internet Age realities that exist for freedom of expression (for the other posts see “Freedom of expression and copyright in the Internet – The new realities of a cyberspace inhabited by copycats” (January 24, 2014), “The Internet Turns 25 Years Old – the Courts and the World Wide Web” (March 19, 2014) and, “The iRevolution revisited: when you share, are you expressing?” (November 13, 2014). In this blog post, I advance the thesis that the protection of freedom of expression must include not only the protection of the things expressed but the modalities and, specifically the technological modalities, by which human expression is transmitted and received.
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The Supreme Court closed out 2014 with a ruling that has met not without some controversy. In R. v. Fearon, 2015 SCC 77, a bare majority held that the common law police power to search incident upon a lawful arrest survived the Charter‘s protection of the right of privacy, albeit with some limitations as imposed by Justice Cromwell (for the majority). Although the search in this case did not comply with the newly imposed qualifications and was therefore not compliant with the Charter, Justice Cromwell held that the evidence so obtained should not be excluded. The minority, led by Justice Karakatsanis, would have found the warrantless search to be unconstitutional and would have excluded the evidence so obtained. The qualifications to the police power to search incident upon an arrest are not easily and objectively assessed, and the principal criticism levied against them is that it will be difficult for the police to know if they are onside or offside of the constitutional mark.
Printing press – Wikipedia
In an earlier post, “Constitutional protection of a collective exercise of freedom of expression: Alberta v UFWA”, I commented on how the Supreme Court of Canada was coming around to understanding the fundamental importance of the exercise of freedom of expression by a collectivity. I also noted that this shift could ultimately have wide-reaching ramifications in the Internet Age.
This post today will be the first instalment of several posts on freedom of expression and the Internet. But let me start by saying that the genie is now out of the bottle and it will not be going back.