Censors Must Not Arbitrarily Black out Public Documents, Panel Rules

Soldiers Supervise Detainee in Afghanistan

By Paul Koring, The Globe and Mail, 02 June 2011

Censors can’t just black out portions of public documents, casually deciding disclosure might bedevil foreign relations, a three-judge panel of the Federal Court of Appeals has ruled in a shot across the bow of a government accused of being too secretive.

The case dates back to 2007 when Stephen Harper’s government blacked out all references to torture, extrajudicial killing and other violent mistreatment of detainees in Afghan hands, even as ministers were telling the House of Commons they were unaware of any nastiness.

Even after The Globe and Mail published the “blacked out” portions of the documents, the government refused to make them public under the Access to Information Act, saying that disclosure would undermine national security and wreck relations with the Karzai government in Kabul. (...)

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Photo: Ethan Baron/Canwest News Service, The Globe and Mail