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Gains made in broadcasting proceedings online during the pandemic mean it’s time to revisit conventions about court restrictions on journalists

By Kirti Vyas J Source

In a physical setting, Toronto Star courts and justice reporter Alyshah Hasham would sit in a courtroom, only able to catch silhouettes of attending participants from a distance. She’s witnessed the transition as courts adjusted to a digitized world since March 2020. “It’s been great in terms of accessibility. I finally get to see people’s faces,” she said, of the close-up views videoconferenced trials have provided.

Hasham highlights the logistical challenges that existed when there weren’t virtual options to attend courts. For instance, while covering a murder trial that was allowed to proceed in person before the second COVID-19 wave hit Ontario, she recalls feeling guilty about taking a family member’s spot due to restrictions on the number of people in the courtroom.

“A virtual option could have prevented that,” she said.

The difficulties raised by Hasham were experienced across the country. When the pandemic began in March 2020, jury trials were delayed until in-person hearings could continue safely. While restrictions would later ease, subsequent COVID-19 waves prompted similar postponements from the justice system, which raised concerns from impacted family members and participants on deferred justice for their loved ones.

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