Two-Thirds of Canadians Say Journalistic Source Material Should be Shielded From Police

Tuesday, May 22, 2018
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But Canadians divided over whether security agencies should use public data to monitor citizens  

TORONTO (May 22, 2018) – A strong majority of Canadians say journalists should not be required to turn over confidential information to police, according to a survey released today. But Canadians are divided over whether national security agencies should have the power to collect and analyze publicly available information on Canadians.  

67% of Canadians believe (38% agree and 29% somewhat agree) that journalists should not be required to provide police with their source material, while less than one in three disagree (15%) or somewhat disagree (15%) and three per cent are unsure, according to a survey conducted by Nanos research for Canadian Journalists for Free Expression (CJFE).    

“This is a strong public endorsement of our view that police should not have the right to seize source material from journalists,” Tom Henheffer, CJFE Vice President, said.  

The survey comes as the Supreme Court of Canada considers whether journalists have a constitutional right to protect material supplied by sources from police agencies.  The case is an appeal of an Ontario Court of Appeal ruling that police had the right to force Vice News journalist Ben Makuch to provide them with material he gathered through interviews with an alleged ISIS terrorist in 2014. 

CJFE, together with a coalition of media and free expression organizations, has been granted leave to intervene in the case.   

“Our coalition’s submission to the Court argues that the seizure of Ben Makuch’s source material 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,” Henheffer said.  

But while Canadians support the protection of material gathered by journalists from the prying eyes of law enforcement, the survey found they are divided over the use of publicly available information to monitor citizens.   

Close to half of Canadians support (19%) or somewhat support (29%) giving security agencies the power to collect and analyze publicly available information to monitor Canadians, including information shared on social media.  Close to half of Canadians oppose (29%) or somewhat oppose (18%) giving law enforcement the authority. Five per cent were unsure.  

The survey of 1,000 Canadians, 18 years of age or older, using a hybrid telephone/online random survey was conducted between April 28 and May 4, 2018, and is considered accurate within a margin of error of plus/minus 3.1 percentage points, 19 times out of 20.  

For more information contact: 

Tom  Henheffer 

Vice President, CJFE 



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