Saturday, May 23, 2009

who will be shielding who?

The Supreme Court of Canada yesterday heard an appeal in one of the five cases of journalist-source confidentiality that are currently on the table. Crown lawyers are arguing that allowing journalists to offer confidentiality to their sources will lead to journalists "shielding criminals."

This is an absurd attempt to restrict the freedom of the press as well as the ability of journalists to report accurately and on critical issues. The Crown's theatrical concern over the ability of journalists to "shield" criminals is nothing more than an extension of Stephen Harper's authoritarian despise for the free press. Having already tried to muzzle the Parliamentary Press Gallery, the conservative order is now trying to censor the Canadian press for reporting stories that it does not like.

If the Crown's true concern is the nature of confidentiality in shielding criminals, why not attack the Church for its confidentiality between confessor and the morally afflicted? If an individual commited the 'perfect' murder (no evidence, no way to prove it was them), and then confessed the act to a priest, the priest would still be bound by confidentiality to protect this secret. Surely the sins confessed within the Church are greater than the defamation or damage brought upon a politician through the tip of an anonymous source.

By taking away the offer of confidentiality, individuals will be far less inclined to reveal corruption or injustice to the media, for fear of repurcussions from either their employers or those in a position of higher power. Without the ability to contribute information confidentially, the entire structure of free press would collapse. Journalists would be left to report on what the government wants them to see, and there would be no way to unravel the corruption and back-room deals that plague modern government.

In other words, there would be no accountability. As any journalist or journalism student has learned, the key role of the media is to hold the government accountable. Freedom of press is a key mark of a free democratic society. Restricting confidentiality severely limits the freedom of the Canadian press. Without a truly free press, we have no democracy.

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