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A reporter must provide the RCMP material about the accused terrorist: Supreme Court

Jim Bronskill, Canadian Press

Posted on Friday, November 30, 2018 9:58 AM EST

Updated Friday, November 30, 2018 10:57 EST

OTTAWA – The Supreme Court of Canada says that a reporter must provide the material to the RCMP for the stories about the accused terrorist he has collected.

Decision 9-0 is likely to be seen as a defeat for the media, which may leave them vulnerable to serve as investigative police.

In 2014, Vice Media reporter Ben Makuch wrote three articles on the participation of Farah Shirdon, a former Calgary, with the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant.

In March of the same year, Shirdon left Canada for Turkey. A month later, he appeared in an ISIL commercial that appeared on the Internet. He tore up his Canadian passport, threw it into the fire and said: "With the help of Allah, we will come to kill you."

The exchange of views between Makuch and Shirdon via text messaging service is crucial for articles.

In 2015, the RCMP received a production order in accordance with the Criminal Code, sending vice-media and Makucha to provide documents and data relating to messages with Shirdon, which may now be dead.

Machuch filed an application to cancel the production order, but he was dismissed – the decision was upheld by the Court of Appeal of Ontario.

The Supreme Court agreed to hear Machuch’s case, which directly contradicts press freedoms against the investigative powers of the police.

In the previous case, the court set out nine conditions for evaluating the validity of the search for the media.

Vice-Media argued in the Supreme Court that lower courts incorrectly applied or did not apply a balancing test.

Philip Tunley, a vice-media attorney, told the Supreme Court last year that there should be clear media protection measures when law enforcement agencies start knocking.

He said that the result of current legislation and practice was a “frightening effect” on the important role of the media in collecting and publishing news in Canada.

Federal lawyer Croft Michaelson told the hearing that “there was no merit” to criticize a solid legal basis for deciding on access to media.

In her arguments, Crown called the test a principled and flexible structure designed to limit any potential cooling effect that might have order on the ability of the media to do its job. He said that the courts did not act as rubber stamps that favored the interests of law enforcement agencies at the expense of freedom of expression.

The Vice Speaker told CTV News:

This is a dark day of press freedom, which is the basic principle of democracy. Although we lost this battle, nothing can shake our belief that the free press plays an important role in the true understanding of the world in which we live. We will continue to strengthen the power of the voices of youth to speak this truth.

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