Riots and demonstrations
Protests and demonstrations, and the right to conduct them, are part of the democratic process. By definition, they are organized to attract the public and the media’s attention. But these situations may evolve and result in confrontation, violence or acts of vandalism.
In covering these events, the information we provide is as accurate and as timely as possible under the circumstances. In such a fluid situation, there is a commitment on our part to be open about what we know and how we know it. We will sometimes receive conflicting information from credible sources. We may choose to report this, making clear the circumstances of the situation and citing the sources while we work to reconcile the information in light of the reality on the ground. The information we provide helps the audience understand a fluid and chaotic situation, so that it can assess the impact and potential danger.
If reporters on one side of a confrontation cannot provide an overview, we ensure the audience receives a broader context in the course of our coverage.
Our journalistic independence and credibility is paramount, so our reporting should avoid inflaming or aiding in any way the various sides in a confrontation.
A decision to go live during a riot or demonstration should take into account the possibility of showing scenes of extreme violence. We are also aware that our presence can sometimes in and of itself create a focal point of activity.
If CBC staff has exclusive access to a sit-in or demonstration by advance knowledge, a decision to accompany the organizers should be referred to the Managing Editor.
Acts of protest
Individuals or small groups sometimes act in ways that cause disruptions or are potentially dangerous – to bystanders and/or themselves. Hunger strikes and sit-ins are examples. Hijacking and hostage-taking are more extreme, and are covered elsewhere.
Before providing live coverage of the event, or making direct contact with the principal participants on air, we assess the potential harm and the newsworthiness of the event, including the level of disruption it is causing in the community. The coverage plan flows from that assessment.
We take into account that the presence of a camera or microphone can alter the behaviour of the participants. By its nature, an event is being staged to bring attention to someone’s plight or to a matter of public interest.
If CBC staff has exclusive access to a sit in or demonstration by advanced knowledge, a decision to accompany the organizers should be referred to the Managing Editor.
Hijacking and hostage-taking
The issues around hijacking, hostage-taking and sieges are similar to kidnapping.
We are balancing the need to report on the event with the need to prevent harm to innocent people. When we are reporting these events, the potential harm to innocent people is an important consideration.
Guided by our concern for their safety, there are many aspects of coverage, especially live coverage, that require careful consideration:
- Interviewing a perpetrator or hostage live on air.
- Broadcasting any video and/or audio provided by a perpetrator or by hostages.
- If we are doing live coverage of a potentially violent event, for example a school siege or plane hijacking, we plan for the ability to quickly alter our coverage to avoid graphic images.
- If police or other authorities request a news blackout, we will give it careful consideration. If authorities ask us to include some information in a broadcast, we will consider a reasonable request, but will never knowingly broadcast something that is untrue.
- To the best of our ability, we will ensure next of kin do not hear of serious injury or death from our publications.
There are several situations that may arise in covering hijacking and hostage-taking which require referral to the General Manager and Editor in Chief:
- Decisions to broadcast an interview or material provided by perpetrators.
- The decision to comply with requests for news blackouts, or to broadcast material provided by the police or other authorities involved in the incident.
Use of material from racist, violent or illegal organizations
Our work sometimes brings us in contact with groups or organizations that are racist or promote violence. In deciding to air offensive material of this kind, we weigh the value of this information to our audience against the offence it might give and the fact that it might provide a platform for its proponents. A decision to air the material should be referred to the Managing Editor.
Depiction of violence
We reflect the reality of the situations we report. We also respect the sensibilities of our viewers, listeners and readers.
Scenes of violence and suffering are part of our coverage of wars, disaster, crime and conflict.
We respect our audience by assessing the impact of our images according to time of day and the context of the program where such material is appearing.
Programmers and journalists must be familiar with CRTC regulations about the depiction of violence and adhere to those guidelines.
If it is necessary to use graphic images, we will put a warning ahead of their use.