Press freedom coalition granted leave to intervene before the Supreme Court in VICE News vs. RCMP appeal

Tuesday, April 17, 2018
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VICE News journalist Ben Makuch. PHOTO: VICE.
VICE News journalist Ben Makuch. PHOTO: VICE.

TORONTO (April 17, 2018)—Canadian Journalists for Free Expression (CJFE), together with a coalition of media and free expression organizations, has been granted leave to intervene before the Supreme Court in the ongoing legal battle between the RCMP and VICE News. VICE is asking the Supreme Court of Canada to overturn a March 2017 Ontario Court of Appeal ruling that VICE News journalist Ben Makuch must hand over all communications between him and an alleged ISIS fighter. The appeal will be heard on May 23 in Ottawa.

The protection of sources is a foundational principle of journalism. The Ontario Court of Appeal ruling set a precedent that has serious implications for press freedom and the integrity of journalism in Canada. The Supreme Court’s decision will be a matter of importance to all Canadians.

In February 2015 the RCMP presented Makuch with a production order to turn over all communications between himself and Farah Shirdon, a source who had allegedly joined ISIS and who was later charged in absentia by the RCMP for terrorism-related activity.

Our coalition’s submission to the Court will argue that the order to Makuch intrudes upon the protected zone of privacy journalists and media organizations must enjoy in order to effectively gather and report the news – including records of communications between those journalists and sources who are not confidential .

legal intervention is a procedure that allows an outside party to join ongoing litigation, usually because the outcome of the case will affect the rights of others besides the original parties. Joining CJFE in the intervention are Aboriginal Peoples Television Network, Ad IDEM/Canadian Media Lawyers Association, Canadian Association of Journalists, Canadian Media Guild/Communications Workers of America (Canada), the Centre for Free Expression, Postmedia Network Inc. and Global News.

CJFE has a long history of intervening in cases that affect free expression and free press issues in Canada, including defamation and libelprotection of sourceshate speech legislation, and access to information.

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