BCCLA At Supreme Court of Canada – Critical Case For Freedom Of The Press

Ottawa (With Files from BBC) – On Wednesday, May 23, the BCCLA  BC Civil Liberties Association will make oral arguments at the Supreme Court of Canada in a critical case for the freedom of the press, Vice Media Canada Inc. et al v. Canada.

The case considers a court order made under s. 487.014 of the Criminal Code requiring Vice Media Canada Inc. and its news reporter Ben Makuch to provide certain information to the police.

The BCCLA’s position is that a judge making an order to compel information from a journalist must balance the public interest in the investigating and prosecuting crime with the public interest in the media’s right to gather and disseminate the news.

In its oral argument, the BCCLA will outline the factors that a judge should consider when balancing these two important interests.

The BCCLA is represented by Tae Mee Park and Andrew W. MacDonald of Bersenas Jacobsen Chouest Thomson Blackburn LLP.

In a nut shell, in 2015, then 29 year old Ben Makuch, a national security journalist with Vice News in Canada, started to follow IS or ISIS video of a young man, no older than he was. He made contact with Somali-Canadian Farah Shirdon, who had made headlines for appearing in a YouTube video burning his passport and threatening the US and Canada. 

Makuch said he couldn’t turn down the opportunity to have a conversation with “these types of individuals.”

Not long after Vice broadcast a September 2015 Skype interview with Shirdon, during which the self-described IS recruiter said there would be terror attacks in the US, the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) served the media company with a production order.

The Mounties are seeking access to all communications Vice had with Shirdon as part of their criminal investigation into the terror suspect. Shirdon has been charged in absentia with six terrorism offences.

The BCCLA argument is available here.

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