The Canadian media is sleeping through the Ezra Levant showdown with the Alberta Human Rights Commission, but they won't ignore this story.
The rights of a Montreal man accused of being a terrorist override journalists' privilege to protect their sources, according to a federal court ruling issued Friday.
Two journalists who alleged Montreal resident Adil Charkaoui was part of a plot to hijack a plane will have to answer questions under oath about their secret source who provided classified information used in a newspaper report, federal court judge Simon Noël wrote in his highly anticipated ruling.
Joël-Denis Bellavance and Gilles Toupin will have to answer questions about how they obtained leaked documents from a retired Canadian Security Intelligence Service (CSIS) agent that formed the basis for an article they wrote in June 2007 alleging Charkaoui once had conversations about a plan to hijack a plane and fly it into a building in Europe.
The journalists, both reporters for Montreal newspaper La Presse, must be subject to questions from Charkaoui's lawyers, who want to know more about the source who leaked the CSIS documents.Noël ruled in favour of Charkaoui, stating that "the administration of justice and Mr. Charkaoui's fundamental rights have primacy over journalistic privilege and protecting sources."
The reason that the media won't ignore it is that both Bellavance and Toupin have been long-time fixtures in the Parliamentary Press Gallery. Bellavance is a regular commentator on Mike Duffy Live and he's also the Ottawa bureau chief for La Presse.
If these two reporters become a cause celebre for the media than Levant's theory about why he isn't getting any attention may be proven right.
On his blog this week, Levant wrote:
Why has the story of my interrogation by a government "human rights officer" received such wide coverage in the blogosphere, but not in the mainstream media? Is it not newsworthy that a publisher was summoned for a 90-minute government interrogation about his political beliefs?
. . .
Four years ago, when the RCMP raided Juliet O'Neill's house to seize privileged evidence that had been leaked to her, the media went on the warpath for weeks, reporting on the subject and toasting O'Neill as a free speech hero. So said the group Canadian Journalists for Free Expression.
I agree that an actual raid on O'Neill's house to seize documents is indeed a big news story, and it does touch upon issues of the free press. But is not a two-year-long government investigation of the political thoughts of a Canadian publisher newsworthy as well?
The small sliver of opinion on the blogosphere that has spoken out against me on this matter has focused, in the main, on my own personality or political stripe -- I can count on two fingers the blog posts that actually support human rights commissions. The bulk of the opposition to me is personal. Is that the same thing in the mainstream media -- for personal or political reasons, or competitive reasons, they're declining to cover a story of government censorship? My interrogation is not as dramatic as a raid on O'Neill's home for documents, but it is just as troubling. More, even -- O'Neill's "crime" was receiving leaked documents. My crime was having illegal thoughts about poltiical and religious subjects.