CanWest lawsuit defendant Briemberg wins peace award

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      A Vancouver activist and broadcaster being sued by the owner of the Vancouver Sun has won the YMCA Power of Peace Award.

      Mordecai Briemberg, a retired Douglas College instructor and Rhodes scholar, is a cofounder of the Canada-Palestine Network.

      The YMCA of Greater Vancouver selected Briemberg for the peace award this past weekend.

      Over the past several decades, Briemberg has waged an endless campaign against the proliferation of nuclear weapons and promoted the self-determination of the Palestinian people.

      CanWest Global Communications Corp., which owns the Sun and scores of other newspapers and broadcasting outlets, sued Briemberg in connection with the publication of a parody of the Sun last year. It ridiculed the paper's pro-Israel editorial position.

      Briemberg has denied he had anything to do with this.

      A group called The Seriously Free Speech Committee has formed a fund to raise money in Briemberg's defence.

      On April 23, the B.C. Civil Liberties Association issued a news release calling upon CanWest to drop its suit against Briemberg.

      Here is a copy of the BCCLA news release:

      Wednesday, April 23, 2008

      Civil Liberties Group Calls on CanWest to Drop its Legal Action Against Accused Satirists

      In an open letter, the B.C. Civil Liberties Association (BCCLA) is calling on CanWest to drop its lawsuit against Mordecai Briemberg and a local publisher, Horizons (sic) Publications over an alleged trademark infringement based on a mock edition of the Vancouver Sun.

      The publication, a satirical paper printed and distributed in the Lower Mainland last June, parodied the layout and look of the Vancouver Sun while mocking the paper’s perceived bias in favour of the state of Israel and against Palestinians.

      The BCCLA views the CanWest lawsuit to be an ill-advised attempt by CanWest to use the courts to silence satirical criticism and constrain fair comment.

      BCCLA spokesperson Tom Sandborn: “We call upon CanWest to exercise a bit of good humour and sober second thought, which will, we are confident, persuade the firm that it does not want to proceed in an action that will, if successful, look like corporate bullying. Whether successful or not, the case works against the principles of press freedom that support CanWest’s media operations across Canada. Too often, the mere threat of court action is enough to stifle public debate or satirical expression.”

      The BCCLA had asked the Vancouver Sun to publish the open letter but the newspaper declined.