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Canadian journalism and human rights groups slam "abomination" arrest of respected First Nations reporter

Giovanni Torre -

Canadian journalism advocacy and human rights groups are calling for the Edmonton Police Service to drop charges against Cree and Iroquois reporter Brandi Morin, who was arrested while covering an encampment raid earlier this month.

IndigiNews reports that the organisations, alongside Ms Morin and her editor at Ricochet Media, spoke out on Monday against obstruction charges that were laid after her arrest on January 10 at a largely-Indigenous camp for homeless people in amiskwacîwâskahikan (Edmonton).

Ms Morin appeared with speakers from the Canadian Association of Journalists, the Committee to Protect Journalists, the Indigenous Journalists Association, Reporters without Borders, Amnesty International, Journalists for Human Rights, and the Coalition for Women in Journalism in an online press conference.

Angel Ellis of Indigenous Journalists Association said the organisation is calling on all levels of policing enforcement to prevent the arrests of journalists.

Canadian Association of Journalists president Brent Jolly described the arrest as "an abomination" and the charges as "absurd" and an attack on press freedom.

"Based on all evidence, Brandi was targeted and singled out for doing her job as a journalist. Today, she appears with us, charged with obstruction - a criminal offence that carries a maximum sentence of two years in prison," he said, IndigiNews reports.

"Brandi's arrest makes an absolute mockery of the rights to freedom of the press and the ability to report on the activities of taxpayer-funded law enforcement agencies. That's why my colleagues and I are here today to call for the charges against Brandi to be dropped immediately."

IndigiNews reports that Ms Morin was interviewing encampment resident Roy Cardinal when Edmonton Police arrived to destroy the site.

At Monday's press conference, Ms Morin noted she had been "singled out" by Sgt Amber Maze, who she alleges pushed and "manhandled her," while another officer had put her in handcuffs - incorrectly, causing pain in Ms Morin's wrists.

Ms Morin, who is from the Michel Band, an Indigenous nation of central Alberta, said she had been at the encampment a day earlier and saw officers scouting the site.

"The public should fear that arresting journalists has become the new norm. Holding powers to account is the core of journalism," she told the press conference.

Her editor at Ricochet, Ethan Cox, said Ms Morin did not obstruct Sgt Maze and believes she was targeted either because she is a high-profile journalist or because she is Indigenous.

PEN Canada, the Canadian branch of PEN (Poets, Playwrights, Editors, Essayists, Novelists) International, also issued a statement in support of Ms Morin.

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