With the mountain of information online that is presented as news, strong ethics are at the heart of responsible journalism. It is every reporter’s duty to maintain integrity and protect anonymous sources in the wake of contentious material being published. Unfortunately, the Canada Revenue Agency is formally requesting and putting pressure on the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation to hand over crucial data from the Panama Papers leak—data that was obtained through a collaboration of anonymous sources.
The papers contain a wealth of data related to an extensive global network of offshore banking and tax sheltering involving high-profile politicians, athletes and entertainers. The information was brought about through a global effort of anonymous investigative journalists working with the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ). The ICIJ has said it plans to publish an online database of all the leaked info in May; however, CRA commissioner Andrew Treusch stated that he did not want to wait until then to begin the investigation into the Canadian citizens implicated in the papers.
There is no denying that Canadian security is important, and anyone implicated in the papers should face the consequences of their actions—but not at the expense of a journalist’s integrity. Anonymity may be the only thing allowing someone to come forward with sensitive information. It allows journalists to research and report on a story without fear of retaliation from people in prominent positions. Sacrificing this, just for the sake of beginning a standard bureaucratic investigation a few weeks early, is an insult to everything that journalists work for and the strict ethics they maintain.
Anonymity of sources is crucial for a free press and a democratic society. It’s not worth giving up so the CRA can get a head start on paperwork.V