|This article needs additional citations for verification. (October 2010)|
||The examples and perspective in this article may not represent a worldwide view of the subject. (December 2010)|
A publication ban is a court order which prohibits the public or media from disseminating certain details of an otherwise public judicial procedure. In Canada, publication bans are most commonly issued when the safety or reputation of a victim or witness may be hindered by having their identity openly broadcast in the press. They are also commonly issued when the crime involves minors or is sexual in nature.
In countries where press freedom is the norm, an actual ban on publication is used mostly for ongoing court cases where publicity may affect the case.
In Canada a judge can issue a publication ban to protect the identity of a victim or a witness, and by law judges are required to issue bans to protect identities of victims of sexual assaults and witnesses to sexual assaults who are less than 18 years of age.
In Canada, the role of publication bans came under intense scrutiny in April, 2005 when Justice Gomery issued a publication ban on the testimony of three key witnesses at the Gomery Inquiry in the sponsorship scandal. The ban was granted at the request of the lawyers for the Jean Brault, Paul Coffin and Chuck Guite who argued intense media coverage would bias potential jurors for their upcoming criminal trials. Shortly after the ban was issued, however, an editorialized summary of Brault's testimony was posted on an American blogger's website where it was immediately accessible and well known to Canadians interested in the story. Also, somewhat strangely, the inquiry remained public to anyone willing to venture to where the proceedings were being held; thus, the opposition parties were aware of what was being revealed at the inquiry, even while their respective leaders were kept intentionally unaware to prevent them from accidentally violating the ban at a press conference. Justice Gomery later lifted the ban on most of the testimony.
In January 2005, author Stephen Williams was sentenced for violating the publication ban by including forbidden details in his two books on Paul Bernardo and Karla Homolka, making him only the second person sentenced for violating the publication ban—the first being one of the "Electronic ban breakers". Stephen Williams reached a plea agreement with the Canadian authorities in which he agreed that he would no longer use "any materials belonging to the Crown" as part of his writings.
In the UK
An order prohibiting publication under Section 11 of the Contempt of Court Act (1981) was issued forbidding any United Kingdom newspaper from releasing certain information regarding a memo which is alleged to have been an official transcript of a conversation between U.S. President George W. Bush and UK Prime Minister Tony Blair, which in the context of the planning for the 2003 invasion of Iraq, regarded a plan to bomb selected offices of the Arabic language Al Jazeera television news station.
In the US
A notable legal dispute between the governments attempt to censor newspapers occurred in the context of the Watergate Scandal during the early 1970s. The Richard Nixon administration attempted to block the New York Times and the Washington Post from publishing information contained in the Pentagon Papers. The matter was resolved after a two-week delay by the United States Supreme Court in the New York Times Co. v. United States case, wherein the Court ruled that the publication ban was a violation of the First Amendment right to free speech.
- "Publication Ban." Department of Justice of Canada. 1/2. Retrieved on October 11, 2010.
- "Top court lifts ban in Stafford case". CBC.ca. December 9, 2010. Retrieved 2010-12-09.
- Cathcart, Brian. "Reporting restrictions have been lifted - by the Internet." The Independent. Sunday February 19, 1995. Retrieved on October 11, 2010. "These questions would not arise in the United States, where the First Amendment, guaranteeing freedom of speech, ensures that the media enjoy great latitude in the coverage of criminal investigations and trials."