There was both good news and bad news in Canada in recent months for journalists’ claim to the right to protect their news sources – what The Globe and Mail in Toronto called “a historic victory and an outrageous assault” in the annals of press freedom. The bad news concerned an intimidatory raid by the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) on the home and newspaper office of Juliet O’Neill, a reporter for the daily Ottawa Citizen in the Canadian capital, Ottawa. Armed with a search warrant, the police officers were seeking to locate the source of a government information leak concerning the case of Maher Arar, a Syrian-born Canadian citizen deported by United States authorities to Syria in 2002 who returned to Canada from there in October 2003. The January 21 raids followed publication on November 8, 2003 of an article by O’Neill about Arar in which she said that the RCMP had identified him as having links to the terrorist organization al-Qaeda – an allegation that Arar has denied. The RCMP raid, in which O’Neill’s notepads, computer files and address books were seized, was carried out under terms of the Security of Information Act, enacted in Canada following the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks on the United States. The law prohibits possession or distribution of secret government documents. Under it, O’Neill and her newspaper could face criminal charges. The International Press Institute called the searches of O’Neill’s home and the newspaper’s downtown offices “a flagrant violation of everyone’s right to ‘seek, receive and impart information and ideas through any media and regardless of its frontiers,’” as enshrined in Article 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. The Canadian Newspaper Association announced that as a result of the incident it would be taking “a leadership role in finding a better balance between the public’s right to know and the government’s interest in preventing the release of some types of information.” The good news on the professional secrecy front was a landmark ruling by Ontario Superior Court Justice Mary Lou Benotto in a separate case and released the same day as the raids. She declared that the news media have a special constitutional status in Canada, and the constitution’s protection should be understood to include the confidentiality of reporters’ sources. “Confidential sources are essential to the effective functioning of the media in a free and democratic society,” Justice Benotto said. The ruling was in a case involving a National Post reporter who had received confidential documents purporting to reveal financial dealings of the then Prime Minister, Jean Chrétien, who said the documents were forged. In another freedom of expression issue, a total of 97 criminal charges and a civil lawsuit were brought by the Ontario provincial government against Canadian author Stephen Williams, whose home was raided by police on more than one occasion. The first time, last May, he was arrested and held in jail overnight. In his writings, Williams had been highly critical of the work of Ontario police, public prosecutors and Attorney General’s Office. The raids were seen as likely to have been fishing expeditions by the police attempting to determine whether he had based what he wrote on word from confidential sources and, if so, who they were, reports from Toronto suggested.