High court agrees to hear Vice Media case about press freedoms

In a decision today, the high court says it will look at Vice Media reporter Ben Makuch’s challenge of an Ontario Court of Appeal ruling that he must give the RCMP the background materials he used for stories on an accused terrorist.


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OTTAWA — The Supreme Court of Canada has agreed to hear an appeal that squarely pits media freedoms against the powers of police.

In a decision today, the high court says it will look at Vice Media reporter Ben Makuch’s challenge of an Ontario Court of Appeal ruling that he must give the RCMP the background materials he used for stories on an accused terrorist.

In 2014, Makuch wrote three articles about the involvement of Farah Shirdon with the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant.

The articles were largely based on communications between Makuch and Shirdon through a text−messaging service.

The RCMP obtained a production order under the Criminal Code, directing Vice Media and Makuch to hand over documents and data relating to their communications with Shirdon.

Makuch brought an application to quash or set aside the production order, but it was dismissed — a decision upheld by the Court of Appeal.

He and his lawyer recently argued that the matter should be dropped because the American military now maintains Shirdon was killed in 2015.

“In our view, the main condition and basis for the production order, i.e. the criminal investigation and prosecution of Mr. Shirdon, is no longer present,” lawyer Iain MacKinnon said in a letter to prosecutors in September. “Therefore, the production order is no longer valid or enforceable.”

As usual in leaves to appeal, the court gave no reasons for deciding to hear the case.

 

The Canadian Press


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