World Press Freedom Canada awards citation to LighthouseNOW reporter

BRIDGEWATER - A national non-profit that advocates for the charter rights of reporters and free expression of journalists abroad awarded a certificate of merit to long-time LighthouseNOW scribe Keith Corcoran for his successful pursuit of search warrant records from the provincial court in Bridgewater.

The organization, World Press Freedom Canada (WPFC), recognized the effort with a local journalism citation, announced on May 2 at the National Arts Centre in Ottawa. During the same event, WPFC presented awards for career achievement and its annual press freedom prize, which went to Robyn Doolittle of The Globe and Mail and Melissa Martin of Manitoba who spent a year reporting on the war in Ukraine, respectively.

Corcoran was unable to attend the ceremony but expressed his gratitude via a video message played at the event, broadcast on the Canadian Cable Public Affairs Channel (CPAC).

In 2023, Corcoran, on various dates, applied to the court in Bridgewater for the release of search warrant records linked to unrelated cases navigating the legal system, most of which involved drug allegations against the accused. Arrests and charges in all of the cases were publicized by the police.

When applications in years past were filed, the Crown and defence routinely declined to take a position and the judge endorsed the release of edited documents. This time the prosecution hesitated and wanted temporary restrictions placed on the reporting of the contents. Defence lawyers also resisted Corcoran's bid for access.

The handful of applications filed by Corcoran were grouped together and became subject of a contested hearing in November. On Jan. 8, in a since-published decision, Judge Catherine Benton sided with Corcoran and LighthouseNOW on all five applications for documents. The decision can be read here: https://www.canlii.org/en/ns/nspc/doc/2024/2024nspc16/2024nspc16.html.

The court records in question outline locations of police searches, what authorities sought during those searches, the list of items seized, and details of law enforcement's grounds and reasoning to a judge as to why it was necessary to carry out those searches.

A story delving into one set of documents has already been published by LighthouseNOW with more to come. Access was delayed because of orders Benton needed to sign to authorize release, dated in January, didn't make it to her desk until April.

Meanwhile, at the WPFC event, former iPolitics managing editor Janet Silver, of Lunenburg County, who now works for CPAC, announced Corcoran's "local press freedom defender" honour.

Being from the east coast, Silver told the gathering, introducing the citation held special meaning for her. She talked about the value of local journalism, something that's "under threat," as fewer TV stations broadcast local news on weekends and weekly papers in many areas have closed or reduced newsroom staff.

On a professional level, it was a good couple of days for Corcoran, whose been a reporter for LighthouseNOW for over 23 years.

On May 4, at the Atlantic Journalism Awards in Dartmouth, he won a bronze for his breaking news print coverage of July 21-22, 2023 weather event that dumped over 200 millimetres of rain in Queens and Lunenburg counties. The storm caused massive flooding and major damage to bridges, roads and prompted governments to declare states of emergency. A page of some of his images of the Bridgewater area impacts accompanied the July 26 article.

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