The RCMP are currently engaged in a legal battle where they are seeking to seize the cellphone records of Canadian VICE news journalist Ben Makuch. The national security reporter has in the past communicated with Farah Mohamed Shirdon, and this man is a Calgary native who is alleged to have left Canada and joined a terrorist group overseas. The RCMP say that Makuch's cellphone could contain crucial evidence to the case on Shirdon, and they previously obtained a court order last year which required VICE Media to provide various messages that had been sent between Makuch and Shirdon.
It is alleged that the police are also asking for information and records from other VICE employees as well. Shirdon is already facing multiple charges, for threatening attacks against Canada, and more. The RCMP has already issued a Red Notice through INTERPOL for Shirdon and it is claimed that some of the charges against Shirdon rely on information from interviews that was conducted between him and Makuch.
VICE is fighting back against the demands however, arguing that the seizure of journalists' work will amount to infringement on freedom of the press. “Journalists aren't an on-call branch of law enforcement,” said Nick Taylor-Vaisey, president of the Canadian Association of Journalists. “Fighting terrorism by serving journalists with production orders and silencing them with gag orders for months on end violates Canada's freedom of the press and is a waste of police resources,” he contends.
Head of content for VICE Canada, Patrick McGuire, has also said that complying with the demands from the RCMP would undermine the independence of Canadian journalism from state authorities. “Sources should be able to speak with journalists without fearing that the cops will turn around and try and request the records of those conversations,... We are not here to assist the RCMP with their work,” said McGuire. The argument will heat-up next week, as the case is expected to make it to court on Monday.
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