DOC concerned about freedom of speech

December 13, 2023

As a member-driven organization dedicated to promoting, supporting and developing the art form of independent documentary creation, the Documentary Organization of Canada is deeply concerned about the culture of fear that is on the rise in Canada and worldwide in the context of the arts and media sectors’ perspectives on the Israel-Gaza war, and its silencing effect on documentary creators.

At the heart of DOC’s mission is to champion the essential role of documentary in fostering an inclusive and equitable democratic society. We believe that the diverse creative, social, cultural and political contributions we make as independent documentary creators from a broad spectrum of points of view is crucial to civic engagement and the functioning of a just society.

We are concerned about acts of violence and an escalation of divisiveness with regard to both antisemitism and Islamophobia in Canada. The Documentary Organization of Canada is disturbed to see the resulting increasing suppression of free speech, and we note the disproportionate silencing of supporters of Palestinians. Throughout Canada and the world, the repercussions of speaking out in public in support of Palestine have led to censorship, job loss, sanctions, deprogramming, silencing, the creation of blacklists and a climate of fear. The United Nations recognizes this is an issue of global concern that impacts all in civil society.

Palestinian voices must be heard alongside Israeli voices. Speaking out in support of Palestine is legitimate Charter-protected political expression. As documentary makers we cherish the freedom in our society to express political opinions without the fear of reprisals and threats to our livelihood. The BC Civil Liberties Association (BCCLA) has said “The current condemnation of protest and freedom of expression, particularly targeting Palestinian and Muslim communities, has resulted in escalating levels of Islamophobia, harassment, racial profiling, and surveillance akin to that seen post-9/11”.

We condemn the acts of Islamophobia and antisemitism that have risen in Canada and as documentary makers, we recognize the links between media narratives and violence in real life. Freedom of speech, a free press, and safe spaces for diverse independent voices coming from a plurality of perspectives is essential to democracy.