Canadian court orders reporter to give police chat logs with alleged militant

Thu Mar 31, 2016 12:20pm EDT
 
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By Ethan Lou

TORONTO (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. In his decision he said the logs relate to serious allegations, and that there is "strong public interest" in their "effective investigation and prosecution."

MacKinnon said Vice is considering an appeal, and Makuch would not need to hand the files over until a decision on that has been made.

Makuch said the order will affect the willingness of confidential sources to speak with media, knowing records of their conversations can be seized and used against them.

"I really don't want to comply with this, and I'm going to look at every legal option available," he said.   Continued...