Supreme Court of Canada: Press Can’t Protect Confidential Sources

May 7th, 2010

Interesting story from our neighbors from the North:

The Supreme Court of Canada slammed the door shut today on a concerted attempt by the press to establish a blanket right to protect confidential sources.

In an 8-1 ruling, the court said that in an age of blogging, Twittering and long-range microphones, the media are too amorphous to enjoy such a right and too ungovernable to exercise it properly.

“The bottom line is that no journalist can give a source a total assurance of confidentially,” the majority said.” All such arrangements necessarily carry an element of risk that the source’s identity will eventually be revealed.”

Mr. Justice Ian Binnie said it was a “simplistic proposition” to suggest that a journalist should be able to decide on his or her own whether to grant blanket immunity to a source.

To grant a right to administer blanket immunity to a trade that has no professional regulation and vastly differing ethical standards, “would blow a giant hole in law enforcement and other constitutionally recognized values such as privacy,” the majority said.

“Journalistic privilege is very context specific,” it added. “The public interest in free expression will always weigh heavily in the balance.”

I don’t know much about Canadian Freedom of the Press Law, but this strikes me as a harsh outcome.

H/T Yaakster.