Blame the bloggers: Supreme Court says journo can’t keep sources secret

Blame the bloggers: Supreme Court says journo can’t keep sources secret

Take a leak: Supreme Court of Canada compels Andrew McIntosh to identify his source (Image: End User)

The big story for Canadian reporters today is the Supreme Court’s decision that a former National Post reporter cannot protect the identity of a secret source who sent him a forged document. In 2001, Andrew McIntosh was given what appeared to be a document showing some corrupt dealings on the part of Jean Chrétien. The RCMP demanded he turn over the documents as evidence, he refused and went to court, and here we are. The Post (and any number of other civil rights groups) argued that reporters have a constitutional right to protect the privacy of their sources. But the court says that’s a no-no.

Despite the decision, squealers with something saucy to link to a reporter should still give it a shot. The red robes just reaffirmed the status quo, which says that these things need to be decided on a case-by-case basis.  In particular, the 8-1 decision by the court says that, as far as the constitution is concerned, reporters are on the same footing as anyone else:

The protection attaching to freedom of expression is not limited to the “traditional media,” but is enjoyed by “everyone” (in the words of s. 2(b) of the Charter) who chooses to exercise his or her freedom of expression on matters of public interest whether by blogging, tweeting, standing on a street corner and shouting the “news” at passing pedestrians or publishing in a national newspaper. To throw a constitutional immunity around the interactions of such a heterogeneous and ill-defined group…would blow a giant hole in law enforcement and other constitutionally recognized values such as privacy.

Somebody should check and then tell us anonymously whether this is the first time a Supreme Court anywhere has referenced tweeting. And then, as bloggers and tweeters, we should totally get “heterogeneous and ill-defined” T-shirts made.

• R. v. National Post, 2010 SCC 16
• Press can’t protect sources, Supreme Court says [Globe and Mail]
• National Post loses case to protect source’s identity [Toronto Sun]
• Paper must reveal sources, top court rules [Toronto Star]
• Supreme Court rejects media immunity [National Post]