Catching up on Slashdot, there was an item Monday about the effectiveness of Canadian criminal court press bans
in the shadow of a global Internet. Brings back memories of the Paul Bernardo-Karen Homolka case back in '94.
This was the first time I managed to torque off someone thousands of miles away badly enough to bother my systems administration. Reg Quinton, then a systems admin/BOFH-wannabe at the University of Western Ontario, was stiffly moaning to alt.censorship (amongst other groups) trying to justify his suspension of a student's account at the mere request of local police. No court order or other due process was involved. That's the kind of thing I take offense at, even to this day, and rudely called him on it
This prompted Reg to pester my news admin at UIUC, future Qualcomm cohort Paul Pomes, calling for sanction against me under the umbrella of protecting the University's good name. They went back and forth a few times, with Paul cc'ing me (pity, I lost the archive in the disk crash of '97.) In the end, Paul told him to stuff it.
I still think the publication bans up there are ridiculous. The proceedings are open to the public to begin with. No one has any expectation of privacy of anything shown or discussed in that setting, so why should the benefit of watching that trial be restricted to those with the geographic and economic advantage of attending in person? This is one of the purposes a free press serves.
Now some of the Canadians on the slashdot thread are whining that the proceedings under ban right now are equivalent to American grand jury hearings. Grand juries, are not open to the public (indeed, they are restricted to the jury, the prosecutor, and the witnesses while testifying--the witnesses may not even have their own attorneys present in the room, though they can consult with them in the hall outside. However, the proceedings are not secret. True, the prosecutor and jury members are forbidden to discuss them, but no law forbids the witnesses from discussing their testimony. (Of course, nothing stops said witnesses from lying about it, either.)
There's a saying that a secret between two people is not a secret. If you don't want someone talking about a legal proceeding, don't let them in the room to witness it. If you let the public in, you have to expect they'll talk about it. What's even more laughable is that the judge in the current case has singled out three American reporters to warn them against publishing. I wonder if he's really that ignorant as not to think that articles can be published pseudonymously, or that an unknown assistant could attend instead and carry notes to his boss sitting in the pub across the street at lunch?
*laugh* They say it's done to protect the jury from being tainted. That sounds like an admission that Canadian jurors are just as dumb as their counterparts further south. And that's nothing to brag aboot.