Dealing with the Media - Andreas Solomos, Toronto Family Lawyer, Children's Aid cases

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Dealing with the Media


Here are a Few Basic Suggestions on How to Deal with Media Representatives Regarding your Court Case.
Most reporters and journalists are highly ethical and truly professional.  Media frenzy often gathers around potentially scandalous and scornful events, highly publicized disputes that end up in court or criminal charges involving influential persons.  Let’s face it.  Television stations, newspapers and magazines specifically hire reporters and bureau chiefs to write and report stories that are expected to be of interest to the public.  Chances are the more powerful you are, the higher the possibility of your becoming either a media celebrity or media pariah.  But even if you are relatively unknown, it takes a few steps to the local courthouse to see your name in the local and sometimes national newspapers.  
Be courteous and friendly with reporters, but proceed with care when talking to them about your court case.  If you are in the middle of a highly sensitive and controversial case, the wisest and safest way is to say a polite but firm “No”, or “No comment” to anyone who wishes to interview you, unless the reporter assures you that the interview will be used as background only to assist his or her understanding of the factual and legal basis of your case.  
You should be careful not to disclose information that may be used by your opponent to make a stronger case against you.  Also be careful not to give the impression that you are intentionally seeking notoriety in order to advance your cause on the backs of the media “forces”.  Even if you ask the reporter to conceal the source of the information, many readers, including your opponents and their lawyers will have little doubt figuring out who the source is.  
If you wish your remarks to remain “off the record”, make sure you express your wishes before the interview begins, and go as far as obtaining written assurances from the editor or bureau chief to protect the highly sensitive nature of your discussions.    
If your comments are printed, you may discover that in spite of the best efforts of the reporter to be accurate, the story may contain inaccurate information.  Ensure that the paper will publish a correction.  To avoid this, insist that the interview is recorded.  
If you inadvertently reveal material evidence that finds its way in the media for the first time, your identity may eventually be revealed with possible negative consequences for you and others.  
In many situations, it is best to let your lawyer speak to the media on your behalf in order to ensure that you are fully protected.  Your lawyer will also explain the meaning of some highly technical terms and the legal framework of your case.
Lawyers in North America, have a moral, civic and professional duty to speak out and publish their comments where they honestly believe they serve a social purpose by providing information on a topic that is of interest to the public at large.  Lawyers should also feel free to speak out where they see an injustice.  By virtue of their education, training and experience, lawyers are particularly well-equipped to provide information and stimulate reasoned discussion and debate on important legal issues.  Your best interests, especially your freedom of expression, may be legitimately served by allowing your lawyer to initiate conduct with the media.  For example, the courts in Canada have ruled that the public has a constitutional right to receive information with respect to legal issues and matters pending in the courts and in relating to the legal profession and its practices.  This freedom may have its limits: your lawyer cannot engage in a calculated campaign to discredit or defame your opponent, his or her lawyers or the court. The same caveat applies if you are self-represented.  When talking to the media treat everyone with respect, integrity and courtesy.  

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20 Andreas Solomos, Barrister & Solicitor. All rights reserved.

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