Canadian Supreme Court Says Press Have No Right To Hide Sources

from the freedom-of-the-press dept

While we're still fighting for a federal press shield law in the US (various states have them, but it's not universal), the Supreme Court in Canada has ruled that a journalist could be compelled to give up his or her sources if the court thinks it's worthwhile. The court did say that it really does depend on the circumstances, but if a court decides that it's of greater public interest to reveal the source, then the court can require it. Of course, there could be some serious unintended consequences that come with such a ruling -- including making sources and whistleblowers less willing to come forward, knowing that the journalists they speak to may not be able to protect their anonymity. I don't know how the Canadian political setup works, but couldn't this issue be solved with Canada passing a shield law? Hell, they can talk to their counterparts down south who are working on the same thing...
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Filed Under: canada, press, shield law

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  1. icon
    TtfnJohn (profile), 12 May 2010 @ 7:06am

    Canadian sheild law unlikely

    As much as, most of the time, I'd love to see one, the way the Canadian constitution is formed, in both its written and unwritten portions, it's not likely a blanket shield law would pass muster.

    It should be noted that the Supreme Count was very careful in its ruling to point out that these things are to be decided on a case by case basis and that there was a powerful dissenting opinion which leaves it open for changes later on.

    As has been noted the Court has to take the "public interest" into account in these rulings and the fact that the document in question is alleged to be a forgery is likely what tipped the scales.

    Constitutionally is the requirement that the Court do nothing that would bring the administration of justice into disrepute which a blanket ruling in either direction would likely have done.

    While we can learn from our neighbours to the south, and I say that without the knee jerk response of some of my "nationalist" compatriots who have the same reaction to every suggestion that we can do that, in this case we have to recognize the different constitutional settings in which the courts and lawmakers attempt to deal with the status of sources for journalists.



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