Vice Media reporter Ben Makuch vows to take legal battle as far as it needs to go

Ben Makuch stands outside of Osgoode Hall March 6. File photo

Unifor Local 87-M continues to stand in solidarity with a Vice Media reporter who is being forced to hand over correspondence with an alleged terrorist.

The Ontario Court of Appeal affirmed March 22 that Ben Makuch must give his correspondence with Farah Mohamed Shirdon to the RCMP, upholding earlier court rulings.

Makuch and Vice Media say they are ready to take this battle as far as it needs to go.

“Vice Media is prepared to do whatever it takes to support and defend our reporter, and our friend, Ben Makuch,” said Vice Media in a statement. “His investigations into the complex world of cyber terrorism and digital security matter more now than ever Ben’s work and the vital principle of a free press must be protected.”

In early 2016, the RCMP ordered Makuch, a national security reporter with Vice, to give up screenshots of his instant messaging chats between himself and Shirdon, a Calgary man who allegedly left Canada in 2014 to fight with ISIS. Shirdon was charged in absentia with multiple terrorism-related charges.

Unifor Local 87-M recognizes that confidentiality is paramount in journalism. Rulings like these could create a chill where sources will not trust journalists with their stories.

Makuch told the CBC’s As It Happens that everything he learned that's of national security interest was already published in his stories.  

“Everything I put that's of interest is out there,” he said. “So, you can only draw conclusions that this is the RCMP trying to prove charges against an individual on terrorism using my information to do so. I think any journalist would say this is a complete violation of our role in society.”