- The Washington Times - Saturday, December 1, 2018

Canada’s high court on Friday unanimously ruled for a reporter to give the government records of his conversations with a Canadian-Somali man suspected of joining the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria.

In a 9-0 decision, the Supreme Court of Canada upheld an earlier ruling compelling Vice Media reporter Ben Makuch to surrender source material related to a series of articles he wrote in 2014 about Farah Mohamed Shirdon, a former Calgary resident and alleged ISIS fighter and recruiter.

“The articles contained statements by the source that, if true, could provide strong evidence implicating him in multiple terrorism offences,” the court ruled, concluding that “the benefits of the state’s interests in obtaining the information outweighs the harmful impact on the press’ constitutionally protected … rights.”

Mr. Makuch, a national security reporter for the organization, said he was “profoundly disappointed” in the ruling, “not just as an appellant in this case or a reporter, but as a citizen of Canada.”

“It is truly a dark day for press freedom around the globe at a time where journalism is unquestionably under attack everywhere,” Mr. Makuch said on Twitter.

“The chilling effect of this decision could critically harm journalists’ ability to gather and report the news in Canada,” echoed Margaux Ewen, North America Director for Reporters Without Borders, one of a dozen organizations that filed court documents in the case in support of shielding the journalist’s source material. “Today’s Supreme Court ruling was not just a loss for VICE and Ben Makuch, but for all journalists and media organizations working in Canada.”

Mr. Makuch began speaking with the alleged jihadi in 2014 while reporting on a YouTube video that showed a man destroying his Canadian passport and pledging allegiance to ISIS. They subsequently began communicating on Kik, a mobile messenger application, and Vice ultimately published several articles stemming from those conversations, prompting the Royal Canadian Mountain Police to file a request in 2015 seeking their correspondence and related documents.

Vice appealed after a lower court ruled for the RCMP, paving the way for Friday’s decision handed down by Canada’s top court.

The RCMP said in a statement that it “respects judicial process and the ruling determined by the Supreme Court of Canada and will not comment further.”

Shirdon was charged in absentia by Canadian authorities in Sept. 2015 with six counts related to allegedly serving as a fighter, recruiter and propagandist for ISIS, a designated terrorist group. The Pentagon has since reported that he was killed weeks earlier as the result of a coalition airstrike launched on ISIS targets in Mosul, Iraq.

Kik does not store messages sent between users, preventing authorities from obtaining users messages through the company or internet providers.


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