Name your source - Macleans.ca
 

Name your source

Court rules journalists have no constitutional protection to keep tipsters secret


 

While researching a story on Jean Chrétien’s dealings with a business in his home riding, National Post reporter Andrew McIntosh received a document, which turned out to be forged, that suggested a conflict of interest in the then-Prime Minister’s efforts to have a loan granted to the company. Police demanded McIntosh reveal his source so they could find the forger, but the Post fought the warrant. The newspaper won in provincial court but ultimately lost at the Court of Appeal, where it was determined that they were using journalistic privilege to shield a wrongdoer. The Post then took the case to the Supreme Court of Canada, which on Friday decided to uphold the order, setting a precedent that quashes any hopes journalists had of having an ingrained constitutional right to protect the identity of their sources from police investigations. However, the court also said that protection can be extended on a case-by-case basis if media outlets can demonstrate that shielding a source is in the public interest. “The public has an interest in effective law enforcement. The public also has an interest in being informed about matters of public importance that may only see the light of day through the cooperation of sources who will not speak except on condition of confidentiality,” wrote Justice Ian Binnie, who also noted that social media and the internet make it impossible for there to be universal guidelines governing the ethics of reporters. “To throw a constitutional immunity” around such an “ill-defined group of writers and speakers and whichever “sources” they deem worthy would blow a giant hole in law enforcement,” he said.

Toronto Star


 
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