Canada court seeks Vice News reporter's chat logs with alleged militant

Thu Mar 31, 2016 11:30am EDT
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By Ethan Lou

TORONTO, March 31 (Reuters) - A Canadian court has ordered a Vice News reporter to give police his communications with a man police have alleged is an Islamic State fighter and charged with terrorism-related offences.

According to a copy of the decision provided by Vice lawyer Iain MacKinnon, national security reporter Ben Makuch was ordered by the Ontario Superior Court of Justice on Tuesday to surrender his instant messenger chat logs with Farah Shirdon to the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP). Makuch had interviewed Shirdon.

Police said last year that they believe Shirdon left Canada in March 2014 to fight with Islamic State militants in Syria. He was charged in absentia with leaving Canada to take part in the activity of a terrorist group, and making threats towards Canada and the United States in an Islamic State video.

According to the decision, the RCMP obtained a court order to seize Makuch's files last year, and the news organization applied to quash it. The decision notes the RCMP said Makuch's communications with Shirdon are evidence, while Vice said seizure of any journalist's records would violate press freedoms.

Justice Ian MacDonnell dismissed Vice's application.

An RCMP spokesman said in an email that the police force respects the court decision.

Vice Media and Makuch could not be immediately reached for comment.

Started in 1994 as a Montreal punk magazine, Vice Media Canada Inc has grown into a global multimedia brand with print, television and online content. Its investors include Walt Disney Co. (Editing by David Gregorio)