Edmonton police searched Alberta Legislative Press offices where Postmedia workers work

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EDMONTON – Edmonton police looking for stolen departmental laptops entered the offices of members of the Alberta Legislative Press Gallery last week, which raised concerns in press freedom among journalists covering Alberta politics.

On the evening of Tuesday, April 21, an unidentified man entered the Alberta Legislative Assembly and stole two laptops belonging to Ministry of Health staff from one of the upper floors of the Legislative Assembly, Edmonton police confirmed to the National Post in an email this week.

It is not known how the man the police were looking for entered the building after hours, between 7:30 p.m. and 9:30 p.m. Nor is it known how much time he spent in the Legislative Building.

In the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, there were few people in the building, without visits, public events or public access in general.

The theft of the laptops – both encrypted, police said – was reported to police Wednesday morning.

Laptops “cannot be accessed without the laptop owner’s password credentials,” said a statement from Stephen Bull, provincial news director.

“These laptops are essentially useless to anyone who stole them,” said Bull. “Due to the encryption of the device, there is no risk of privacy invasion. “

Edmonton police, along with Alberta sheriffs, searched the legislature on Wednesday, including looking through windows and opening office doors in the section of the building reserved for offices occupied by members of the gallery. of the press.

the National Post and Edmonton Journal have journalists from the press gallery and offices on site. Journalists covering Alberta politics have occupied this space for decades.

You have the right not to be searched and to have your privacy invaded

It is not known whether the Postmedia offices were among the people searched by the police or to what extent. It is also unclear which other areas – if any – have been sought in Parliament.

“Postmedia will investigate whether the press offices were searched by the officers and whether anything was deleted,” said Lorne Motley, editorial vice president of Postmedia West Region. “We want to be clear that we support the police in their work. However, it is disturbing to learn that the press gallery area may have been searched without the media’s knowledge. “

Doug Richardson, a media lawyer for O’Donnell, Robertson and Partners in Toronto, who does media law for Postmedia, said journalists should have certain rights in this space – although it is complicated, according to research was or was not simply visual or if it was more extensive.

“Just like a tenant, you have rights. You have the right not to be searched and to have your privacy invaded, ”said Richardson. “To what extent has it been searched?” Did they just open the door and look?

The Legislative Assembly of Alberta grounds received far fewer visitors and Legislative Assembly visits were canceled because the COVID-19 coronavirus arrived in Alberta, seen in Edmonton on Friday, March 20, 2020.


Ian Kucerak / Postmedia

“It could be sort of the caveat here. “

The search raised concerns among gallery reporters that there may be access to offices – which sometimes contain sensitive information – without the journalists’ knowledge, or if they are handling documents or information that the government or the police don’t want journalists to see. ‘Hands.

While cleaning staff regularly enter journalists’ offices to empty the trash, this search was unprecedented, to the knowledge of members of the press gallery.

Police declined to comment further on Friday. Jason van Rassel, spokesperson for the Alberta Department of Justice and Solicitor General, said that the Sheriffs of Alberta are one of the organizations responsible for the safety and security of the building. Legislative Assembly and its contents. When they were informed that an unauthorized person had been able to enter the building, they examined the video surveillance images and searched the building for any potentially stolen property. They considered it a criminal matter and contacted the Edmonton Police Service for further investigation.

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