Homolka-Teale Trial Publicity

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Date: 1993

Region: North America

Subject: Political/Economic/Social Opinion

Medium: Television , Print Journalism , Radio


Confronting Bodies: Ontario Judicial System

Confronted Bodies: Canadian Media

Dates of Action: 1993

Location: Canada

The Incident: The judge, Justice Francis Kovacs, presiding over a notorious murder trial (Karla Homolka and Paul Teale), imposed a gag order on the press against revealing any of the details of the case or discussing it in any way other than referential. He imposed this order to allow the accused a "fair trial." In November/December 1993, American journalists defied the gag order and some major sources broadcast the information including The Washington Post, Newsweek, and the television program, A Current Affair. Canadians were able to cross the border to purchase copies of the publications, though roadblocks were set up at key border crossing sites to confiscate copies if the possessor had more than one. Many Canadians were able to receive satellite broadcasts of the television accounts of the case (80% of Canadians live within 200 miles of the US border). Users of the Internet were widely distributing these reports and other accounts of the case across Canada and around the world. Many Internet systems administrators at Canadian universities and institutions were denying access to areas of the Internet which discussed the case by taking the information off of their systems.

Results of Incident: The gag order will remain in effect for Canada until the close of the trial of Paul Teale. Several Canadian media sources have appealed the judge's order. As a result of the gag order, an inordinate amount of attention has been focused on the case and there are few Canadians who do not know the details of the case.

Source: NYtimes and Washington Post