What is the constitutional significance of s. 2(b) of the Charter protecting the freedom of the media to comment on the administration of the courts and other components of the justice system?

Ontario, Canada

The following excerpt is from R. v. Brown, 1998 CanLII 14946 (ON SC):

Thus, through s. 2(b) of the Charter we have placed a constitutional significance upon the role of the media in having access to and gathering information about government institutions and disseminating it to the public. The freedom of individuals to discuss information about the institutions of government is crucial to our notion of democratic rule. The liberty to criticize and express dissenting views has long been regarded as a safeguard against state tyranny and corruption. Section 2(b) protects the freedom of the press to comment on the courts and other components of the administration of criminal justice as an essential component of Canada as a democratic society. It provides for the flow of information necessary to the development of an informed opinion. As was noted by Cory J. in Edmonton Journal v. Attorney General for Alberta, 1989 CanLII 20 (SCC), [1989] 2 S.C.R. 1326 at 1336: It is difficult to imagine a guaranteed right more important to a democratic society than freedom of expression. Indeed a democracy cannot exist without that freedom to express new ideas and to put forward opinions about the functioning of public institutions. The concept of free and uninhibited speech permeates all truly democratic societies and institutions. The vital importance of a concept cannot be over-emphasized. No doubt that was the reason why the framers of the Charter set forth s. 2(b) in absolute terms which distinguishes it, for example, from s. 8 of the Charter which guarantees the qualified right to be secure from unreasonable search. It seems that the rights enshrined in s. 2(b) should therefore only be restricted in the clearest of circumstances.

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