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A reporter must give RCMP material about accused terrorism: The Supreme Court

Jim Bronskill, The Canadian Press

Published Friday, November 30, 2018 9:58 EST

Updated Friday, November 30, 2018 10:57 EST

OTTAWA – The Supreme Court of Canada says that a journalist must give the RCMP material that he has collected about accused terrorism stories.

The 9-0 decision is likely to be considered as a mediation that could leave them open to police investigative arms.

In 2014, Ben Makuch, the sub-media correspondent, wrote three articles about the Farah Shirdon, formerly of Calgary, with the Islamic State of Iraq and Levant.

Shirdon had left Canada to Turkey in March of that year. A month later, he appeared on an ISIL propaganda video that turned on the web. He got up his Canadian passport, and threw it into a fire and said, "With the help of Allah, we are coming to kill you."

The interchanges between Makuch and Shirdon through text messaging services were essential to the articles.

In 2015, the RCMP received a production order under the Criminal Code, directing Sub-Media and Makuch to provide documents and data relating to communication with Shirdon, which may now be dead.

Makuch made a request to suspend the production order, but he was dismissed – a decision confirmed by the Ontario Court of Appeal.

The Supreme Court agreed to hear the case of Makuch, who released the press against the investigative powers of the police.

In a previous case, the court had set nine conditions for assessing the reasonableness of a media center search.

Sub-media in the Supreme Court argued that lower courts had been wrong applying for the balancing test, or failure to apply.

Philip Tunley, a lawyer for Sub Media, told the high court last May that there should be clear defenses for the media when enforcement agencies hit.

The result of current law and practice said "cooling effect" was on the important role of the media in collecting and publishing news in Canada.

Croft Michaelson's federal lawyer said at the hearing that there was no "merit" to criticize the firm legal framework in place for deciding access to media materials.

In his arguments, the Crown called a principle and flexible framework that is intended to prevent any potential cooling effect that an order could have on the ability of the media to carry out its work. He said that the courts had not been acting as rubber stamps that favored the interests of law enforcement at the expense of freedom of expression.

Deputy Spokesman told CTV News:

This is a dark day for freedom of press, the fundamental principle of democracy. Although we have lost this fight, we can not shake our belief that free press is a key to a real understanding of the world in which we live. We will continue to foster the power of youth voices to speak the truth.

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