Canada
Journalists able to use electronics in court starting in February

Credits: QMI Agency

JANE SIMS | QMI AGENCY

LONDON – Play-by-play of trials on Twitter and live blogs by journalists have the blessing of the Ontario courts starting in February.

It's part of a new policy set out by the Ontario Superior Court that will allow lawyers and journalists to use their computers, digital devices, and cellular phones in court.

But the strict rules for the public still apply - they'll have to keep their devices turned off in court.

Under the changes, such devices will be permitted as long as they're kept on silent mode and used "in a discreet and unobtrusive manner and their signals don't interfere with a courtroom's recording equipment or cause a disruption."

One media observer says it's a case of the Ontario courts catching up.

"This makes sense, and it does follow more along the lines of what courts everywhere who are paying attention and developing policies are doing," said Mary McGuire, a journalism professor at Carleton University who co-authored a chapter on social media in the courtroom in a forthcoming book on crime reporting.

But there still remains an out for judges -- they have the final say, in any case --  who object to live reporting, if they decide such communications "interfere with the proper administration of justice."

The new rules say publication bans must be respected and no photos or video can be recorded.

If the rules are broken, judges can apply a range of sanctions -- from ordering a journalist to turn off their device, to having them charged under the Courts of Justice Act.

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