Reporters would say no, but more than a few would say, absolutely. They argue that when journalists possess evidence that could nail terrorists or other criminals, they have a moral if not legal responsibility to hand it over.
The Canada Revenue Agency has asked the CBC and Toronto Star to give it documents from the so-called Panama Papers leak of data on offshore tax havens, to use in possible investigations. Both news organizations have refused. The pressure on other news organizations will likely increase as law enforcement agencies around the world have launched criminal probes in wake of the publication of the Panama Papers
In March, an Ontario judge ordered Vice Media to surrender screenshots of communications between a Vice reporter and former Canadian resident charged with terrorism offences. Vice has been fighting the order.
For journalists, the argument is simple. Once you start handing over confidential documents and revealing confidential sources, your sources will dry up, and the public will lose access to crucial information. Others believe the greater public interest is in catching and jailing those who would do us harm.
You can hear both sides of the argument and decide for yourself.
The State vs. Journalism is the marquee event of an upcoming weekend conference on investigative journalism presented by Veritas, a non-profit organization dedicated to advancing journalism in the public interest.
It takes place at 7:30 pm, May 14 at the Duke of Westminster Pub at First Canadian Place, 77 Adelaide St. W, Toronto.
The watchdog workshop Investigative Journalism Across Borders will be held May 14 and 15 at Ryerson University’s School of Journalism, bringing together journalists from Canada and the U.S for engaging discussions of investigative reporting, interviewing, data journalism and more. It is presented jointly with Investigative Reporters and Editors.
Sessions take place at the Rogers Communications Centre at 80 Gould St.
The conference is open to anyone and costs $55 USD and $25 USD for students for the two days.
Sponsors for the conference are: The Toronto Star, CBC News, CTV News, Global 16×9, The Working Group, the Walrus Foundation and the University of King’s College School of Journalism.
You can find more information at veritasjournalism.org and IRE.