Edward Prutschi discusses a hot Toronto news item that deals with a non-physical confrontation between Mayor Rob Ford and a Toronto Star reporter, and its legal implications. On Wednesday evening, the reporter was covering a story about a parcel of land that has Mayor Ford interested to buy, and is adjacent to Mayor Ford’s current house. One of Mayor Ford’s neighbours notified him that there was someone taking pictures in his backyard. The Mayor confronted the reporter and told him to leave the premises immediately. It is now a police matter, and they are looking over Mayor Ford’s private surveillance videos to determine if there was any criminality involved on the part of the Toronto Star reporter. While on the surface it may seem like a minor and insignificant story, it has caused a media firestorm in recent days and brings about a slew of legal issues that need to be discoursed. Edward Prutschi was counted on by News Talk 1010 to go over them.
The first issue is the issue of private property: did the Toronto Star reporter stay on public property or did he deliberately trespass into Mayor Ford’s private property? Edward then goes into a more complicated matter. He discusses that the real issue here will be whether the Toronto Star reporter was “watching and besetting,” or criminally harassing. As with almost all legal issues, it comes down to intent. Was the Toronto Star reporter covering a story of a well-known public figure, or was he going too far and snooping around and aiming to harass. If this story does become a criminal case, the constitutional rights of the press to report stories will be an important defense line for the Toronto Star reporter.
Edward also talks about new media and if members of these communities constitute members of the press and how far can they go with reporting with their cell phones, Twitter accounts, their blogs and so on. With the advent of Social Media, the issue of what constitutes the press has been muddled. To determine if one is a legitimate member of the press, it goes on a case-to-case basis. Some may argue that public figures are fair-game and that being in the spotlight, especially in the political domain, justifies a high-level of scrutiny by the public, and the press should not be punished for their inquiries.