Vice reporter says he was treated like 'a criminal' as bid to block RCMP demand for material fails
Statement about Farah Shirdon's death not confirmed, judge says, allowing RCMP production order
A reporter's last-ditch attempt at blocking an RCMP demand for his background materials in a terrorism case failed Thursday with a judge refusing to stay the production order.
Vice and Makuch argued in April that the order was no longer legally valid because Farah Shirdon, formerly of Calgary, was dead. They based that assertion on statements from U.S. Central Command — Centcom — that Shirdon had been killed in Iraq in an air strike 2015.
Davies, however, said enforcement of the order would not amount to an abuse of process.
Vice Media's latest attempt at thwarting the RCMP came little more than two months ago after the Supreme Court of Canada decided that Makuch had to turn over the logs of instant-messaging chats he'd had with Shirdon. Makuch used the material for three stories he wrote in 2014.
Veracity of Centcom statements unconfirmed
At issue in the latest hearing were the reliability of Centcom statements in 2017 and 2018 that indicated Shirdon was dead. The U.S. State Department still designates the suspect, wanted in Canada on terrorism-related charges, as someone "actively engaged in terrorism."
A disappointed Makuch said Thursday he accepted Vice's decision to give the RCMP what it wants to spare further litigation.
The police action, he said, should trouble all journalists in Canada. He also accused the Mounties of wasting tax dollars in a dead-end pursuit.
"No journalist should be threatened or imprisoned for doing their job," said Makuch, who expressed appreciation for the support he's received from the journalism community through his four-year fight.
Vice lawyer Scott Fenton also expressed disappointment at Davies's ruling.
"Vice Media will be complying with the production order," Fenton said.
Vice questions press freedom in Canada
In a statement, Vice Media said the case called into question Canada's standing as a defender of press freedom.
Shirdon, a prolific user of social media to recruit westerners to the Islamic State, has been quiet for several years. He is still wanted in Canada on various terror-related charges.
As part of its investigation, the RCMP has long demanded Makuch's instant-messaging chat logs that led to his writing stories about Shirdon.
Makuch had steadfastly refused to provide them, prompting a fight closely watched by media and free-speech activists that went to the Supreme Court, which upheld the production order in November.
Makuch now lives and works in the United States.