NEWS

StarPhoenix reporter Jason Warick placed in custody for refusing to hand over notebooks

03/06/2015 03:23 EST | Updated 05/06/2015 05:59 EDT
A Saskatchewan journalism professor says Saskatoon StarPhoenix reporter Jason Warick was right to fight a judge's order to turn over his notebooks, despite the fact it landed Warick in custody.

Trish Elliott teaches at the University of Regina's School of Journalism. She said notebooks are vital for journalists.

"They are very key documents. They allow us to work. They allow us to check things. We tell our students to hang onto those notebooks. They are everything to you."

The incident involving Warick, first reported in The StarPhoenix, stems from a first-degree murder trial in Saskatoon of three men charged with the 2004 death of Isho Hana.

Warick received a subpoena from one of the defence lawyers to appear in court with his notes to testify about an interview he did with with Noel Harder. The article appeared in the StarPhoenix on February 6, 2015.

The StarPhoenix's lawyer argued there was no evidence Warick's notebooks had anything relevant to the Hana murder trial. The judge ruled Warick had to attend court to testify, with his notes, but that he did not have to turn them over to defence lawyers.

Harder was a police informant during a biker investigation in Saskatoon in 2014 and 2015. He was called as a witness earlier this week at the trial and testified that in 2004 he heard a hit was taken out on Hana.

According to The StarPhoenix, Warick was placed in custody because he refused a judge's order to give up his notebooks to the court. He remained in custody over the noon hour.

After lunch, the judge released Warick but ordered his notebooks to remained sealed with the court.

Where does a notebook belong

Elliott believes the judge is walking a fine line by taking these actions.

"It is an important point to make that our notebooks are not up for grabs easily. And that police, judges and courts need to really think long and hard before they make a move like this because it is a serious move against journalism in the country," she said.

What really concerned Elliott is how this could impact the daily work a journalist does. Trust, Elliott argued, is important between a journalist and the person they are interviewing.

"It makes it difficult for journalists to do their job if the people speaking to them, especially in sensitive cases like this one, feel that what they say could end up in court. Or their comments in a notebook could end up in court."

Warick, the editor of The StarPhoenix, Heather Persson, and the newspaper's lawyer would not comment on the story today.

The Isho Hana trial continues.

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