Ricochet staff writer Jerome Turner has won one of the country’s highest honours for journalism, the Canadian Association of Journalists’ Charles Bury President’s Award, for his coverage of the Wet’suwet’en Nation’s fight against the Coastal GasLink pipeline. As part of a month-long assignment in Wet’suwet’en territory, Turner reported from inside the RCMP raid on Gidimt’en checkpoint, where he was detained for over eight hours — sparking condemnation from press freedom groups.
Turner is the second Indigenous journalist, and the first Indigenous man, to win the award.
“Police have been trying to keep journalists away from important stories,” said Karyn Pugliese, president of the Canadian Association of Journalists, shortly before announcing the award winners during last night's online awards ceremony.
“Nothing is more critical to a free and just society than the right to know,” she added.
- The day the RCMP came: The raid on Gidimt’en Checkpoint in photos
- Detained at Gidimt’en: Inside the media confinement zone
- Ricochet journalist detained for eight hours while covering RCMP raid
“On the ground this year at Wet'suwet'en, police again set up an exclusion zone, knowing it was beyond their legal authority. Journalists were detained by police, threatened with arrest even though police knew this was wrong. Some of these journalists pushed back hard. Three stood out. And their moral courage benefits us all.”
Turner shares the award with Amber Bracken and Jesse Winter, who were reporting for The Narwhal and Vice, respectively. While reporting on the RCMP raid on the camp at 39 km, Winter was illegally detained and removed by the RCMP. Bracken covered the raid on the Unist’ot’en Healing Centre, and police also interfered with her ability to report freely.
“Having guns pointed at you was something that was novel for me,” said Turner as he accepted the award. “I was honoured to be there and to have some sort of public record.”
“Being a journalist is an honour,” he concluded. “Thanks to all the journalists who put yourselves in less than safe positions to keep the public record.”
The Charles Bury President’s Award is given at the discretion of the president of the Canadian Association of Journalists for “outstanding contribution to journalism in Canada,” and is one of the organization’s highest honours. Turner, Bracken and Winter were found to have displayed exceptional moral courage in their reporting.
“We’re very proud of the work Jerome did,” said Ricochet editor Derrick O’Keefe. “We felt it was critically important to have as many journalists there as possible, and we knew none of the major outlets were sending anyone into the Wet’suwet’en sites. We’d worked with Jerome many times over the years, and we thought sending an Indigenous journalist from the area was the obvious choice. So we moved heaven and earth to get him there. We couldn’t have done it without the support of so many of our readers, and they should all share the great pride we feel in what he accomplished.”
Jerome Turner is currently a staff writer for Ricochet, covering Indigenous stories. You can read his most recent article, on the concerns of remote Indigenous Nations that lifting travel restrictions could spread COVID-19 to their communities, here.
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