Before a publication ban is issued on a matter before the court, a judge considers the fundamental rights of each party. The person seeking the publication ban has a right to a fair trial and personal security; the media has a right to freedom of expression. The court will impose a minimal ban necessary to protect the fundamental rights in jeopardy.
The law regarding publication bans is complex. Journalists covering legal proceedings should be familiar with the requirements. When in doubt, they should seek legal advice. It is the responsibility of the media to ensure that all persons acting on their behalf respect all publication bans. The consequences for breaching them are serious.
The general rule is that the media is entitled to public information about proceedings in court. However, the court may, and sometimes must, impose a ban on the publication of information to protect:
- the fairness and integrity of a trial,
- the privacy and safety of a victim or witness, or
- the identity of a young offender.
A publication ban ordered by another court remains in effect in the Court of Appeal, unless revoked by an order of the Court and must be observed in all broadcasts or other publications of the court proceedings.
Sources of Authority for Publication Bans
There are two sources of authority for publication bans:
- inherent discretion of the presiding judge to control court proceedings for the purpose of ensuring a fair trial; and
- statutory provisions that permit or require publication bans, e.g. Criminal Code of Canada and matters involving youth under 18 under the federal Youth Criminal Justice Act.