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Anger as two journalists arrested at Indigenous protest in Canada

Anger as two journalists arrested at Indigenous protest in Canada
Journalist associations have called for their immediate release

There is growing anger over the arrest of two journalistes who were covering an Indigenous-organised protest against a controversial pipeline project in Canada.

Photojournalist Amber Bracken and documentary filmmaker Michael Toledano were taken into custody by Royal Canadian Mounted Police on Friday along with approximately a dozen manifestants.

The Canadian Association of Journalists has condemned the arrests and called for their immediate release and for any charges to be dropped.

Adding its voice to the association’s call is the Committee to Protect Journalists: “We stand in solidarity with our Canadian colleagues. Journalists should not be arrested simply for doing their jobs and covering matters of public interest.”

RCMP officers were enforcing a court-ordered injunction in British Columbia connected to the proposed route of the 670km (416-mile) Coastal GasLink pipeline. The injunction bars protesters from blocking a forest road used by construction workers.

Both Ms Bracken and Mr Toledano have spent months documenting the tensions that have arisen over the TC Energy Corp project since the hereditary chiefs of the Wet’suwet’en peoples refused to give consent for the routing of the pipeline through their traditional territory.

No formal agreement has been signed with the provincial government and the Wet’suwet’en have not given over any land.

Le gardien reports that an RCMP statement over the weekend says that police found a structure built on the service road and ordered people to leave after reading out the injunction.

Officers then broke down the doors of the structure and arrested 11 gens, including Bracken and Toledano, who the police said identified themselves as “independent journalists”.

Ms Bracken was reporting for The Narwhal, an environmental publication, that had informed police that she was on assignment in the area.

"The Narwhal is extremely disturbed that photojournalist Amber Bracken was arrested for doing her job while reporting on the events unfolding in Wet’suwet’en territory on Friday,” said editor-in-chief Emma Gilchrist in a statement.

“Bracken has been held in jail for three nights, in violation of her charter rights. We strongly condemn the RCMP for this behaviour and all violations of press freedoms in this country.”

Mr Toledano has been living in Wet’suwet’en territory for the past three years to create a documentary called Yintah which is scheduled to air on Canadian television in 2022.

Both of the journalists are scheduled to appear in court on Monday.

According to the Canadian Association of Journalists, the RCMP stated the reason for arresting the two was because they had “embedded” with the protesters, which is not illegal in Canada.