Justin Break, Muskrat Falls, Muskrat Falls Generating Station discussed on As It Happens from CBC Radio

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Justin break is charged with mischief. But he says it was just journalism in two thousand sixteen gene before Mr Briggs joined a p t n he was covering indigenous protests at the Muskrat Falls Generating Station project in Labrador. The company had secured a court injunction in blocking protesters from entering the site but the protesters broke the lock went through the gate and began an occupation so Mr break took his camera and followed the protesters inside insight. Justin breaks lawyers have argued that he shouldn't be tried for doing his job as a reporter that earlier this month. A judge dismissed their application and gave the green-light for his trial to go ahead in January. We reached Justin break in Ottawa. Justin break what are you thinking and feeling now that you are seemingly Heading for trial It's unfortunate that this outstanding criminal charge has not been dropped but At this point I think I'm feeling more confident now than I than I was two years ago Facing all three charges you know vindicated by Newfoundland Labrador's highest court and also also with the support of all of my colleagues at APN journalistic and press freedom organizations and And you know basically three three three plus years now to reflect on the importance of the work that I did in the fall of two thousand sixteen in Labrador and the impact without his so the crown and says that you were engaged in mischief at Muskrat falls. What would you say? How do you describe what you were doing? They're covering a very important story It it was a it was a good ethical decision to make to to follow that story and cover it because the public had a right and they need to know what was going on ATM Muskrat falls at that time. So you know I kinda I stand by that decision and I don't. I do not believe what I did was a criminal. The other journalists covered that Muskrat falls occupation but they did it from outside the gates whereas you followed the protesters onto the property. Emmy me. Why did you decide that? You should challenge the court's injunction and join that occupation. Why didn't decide that? I should challenge the court's Injunction Junction That day I had to make a snap decision in a matter of seconds whether to stay with the story or abandon the story and cover it from outside the Ah you put it You know I did follow the story and others didn't follow the story that day but as soon as I was in there and had exclusive access to the story that's when CBC C. N. N. TV and others began reaching out to me to say. Hey we we actually need to know what's going on in there. Can you help us so so by virtue you of making that decision to go in. I was actually able to act in not only in primarily covering the story for the independent but also to help other media who who. We didn't make the same decision as I did. In those few seconds do you feel that the other journalists failed to do their jobs whereas you did. We are at a turning point in terms of the You know quote Unquote Era of reconciliation. And it's well document. That Canadian media have historically failed to adequately represent and cover for indigenous people and stories and I think that Probably because it was a unique and unexpected situation had media had more time to prepare or consider the pros and cons or potential ramifications are benefits of following that story. Maybe there would have been a different outcome in terms of other journalists following the story. So your work. Muskrat falls has been framed as embedding with the occupiers. But but some have described you as well as an activist journalist would would you think that's a fair assessment. I don't know what people mean when they say when they say that I'd want a definition of that term. And how would you define. I don't have the definition for it because it's not something that I consider myself I guess it would be more fair to say. I've been an advocate of press freedom in doing this but You know like I alluded to earlier. I mean we've for years Different various bodies observers have called on Canadian media do better in reporting reporting on indigenous issues. the wash inquiry. No journalist was present when Dudley George was shot in in Ontario You know the TRC Truth and Reconciliation Insulation Commission and it's called the actions calls for indigenous media to better support. It's these stories can be told and so. I don't think that the conversation necessarily should be asking thing at this point in time in two thousand nineteen why journalists Make decisions to do a better job of covering these types of stories. I think it should be incumbent on media who are not taking these types of decisions. Why they're not because we saw? We have three years to reflect on the Muskrat falls coverage that the independent did and we see that it'd probably provided an enormous ormuz public service because a counter narrative that was being constructed by Government Inc and by police. That in fact turned out to be not the complete complete picture. You mentioned earlier that to additional charges that you've been facing the crown dropped the criminal contempt charge and then the court of Appeal dismissed the civil. We'll charge so what is the reason that the crown has given for wanting to move ahead with this mischief charge. We're wondering the same as well. I mean they believe that they have the that it's in the public look interests. I mean this is known this is in court documents. So we know and they they have to believe or be able to argue that it's in the public interest to proceed with these charges. So they think it's in the public interest to uh pursue the criminal charge of mischief over five thousand dollars and they have to believe that they have a reasonable probability of conviction so to my understanding that means that an argument has to be made that my presence on the site as journalists impeded the I guess financial interests the Crown Corporation building. Damn what is it been like for you to continue your work with this thing hanging over your head. I mean it's been interesting. It's definitely Occupied occupied time and energy resources on my part but at the same time it has I think motivated me to pay more attention to the press freedom that I I think a lot of us. Journalists take for granted in Canada. And it's also created a dialog and conversation not only about press freedom but in the media's bowl and responsibilities of media have uncovering these types of story the Supreme Court of New Zealand labradors decision on the civil matter which came down earlier this year specifically cited a APTMA's Affidavit Karen Liaison former news director here who wrote Enough David in the intervene in my case and the judge we think for the first time in Canadian Indian history fight the reconciliation and the need the importance of media having to be present and bear witness than report on these types of events. So you know it's it's it's more than just about press freedom here. We're actually I think taking a step towards a better and more responsible media coverage of indigenous people an indigenous stories. All right just break. Thank you very much for talking with US locate. Thanks very much all right. bye-bye Justin break is a reporter with AP news the reached him in Ottawa..

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