TORONTO -- An Ontario judge has ruled that the Canadian Broadcasting Corp. must turn over videotapes of a demonstration outside a jail where Holocaust denier Ernst Zundel was behind bars.
The broadcaster had fought against release of the material, which included out-takes from a television program called The Nerve.
The CBC crew taped 90 minutes of the demonstration on Sept. 12, 2004, outside the Metro West Detention Centre in Toronto, where Zundel supporters clashed with an anti-racist group.
There was little violence, but three pro-Zundel demonstrators were charged with weapons offences.
The police subpoenaed the CBC tapes, including more than 80 minutes that never aired publicly. Both the Crown and lawyers for the three defendants wanted the tapes turned over to the court so they could see them.
The CBC had argued that handing over the tapes would have a "chilling" effect on the media's ability to safely cover demonstrations. In this case, the broadcaster said, it had told the anti-Zundel demonstrators that they would be taped in a way that would allow them to stay anonymous.
But Ontario Court Judge David Cole rejected that argument, noting that the parts of the tape actually broadcast showed and identified many of the people involved. He also said the CBC was inconsistent in its views on when a case would be serious enough for it to consider turning over tape to the police.
The judge said he was "unable to accept the proposition that it should be solely up to senior CBC officials to determine whether evidence in their possession is sufficiently material so that it should be disclosed to avoid a miscarriage of justice."
The judge tore a strip off CBC chief news editor Tony Burman, saying the executive did not take the time to fully understand the charges, or to view the tapes, before he testified.
"This lack of attention to basic fact gathering is not what we should expect from senior officials of an organization which prides itself on the accuracy and completeness of its investigations," Judge Cole wrote in his ruling.
CBC lawyer Daniel Henry said yesterday the broadcaster's main concern was ensuring that camera crews are safe in such situations. There is often just a "veneer of trust" between cameramen and protesters -- an understanding that the footage will be used for editorial purposes and not to gather evidence, he said.
Mr. Henry said the CBC is studying the ruling and has not decided whether to appeal.