Consortium News sued the Canadian TV network Global News for defamation in federal court in Virginia over a report saying CN was part of an “attack” and a cyber influence campaign directed by Moscow against a Canadian leader.
The lawsuit accused the Corus Entertainment-owned network of entering into a business conspiracy with the Canadian Communications Security Establishment (CSE) to “Link … critics of Deputy Prime Minister Chrystia Freeland to Russia as a way of discrediting those critics and protecting themselves.”
The suit said: “Global received the storyline from CSE and then consciously regurgitated the preconceived narrative that it knew to be false. In its quest to paint Plaintiff as a ‘Russian collaborator,’ Global abandoned journalistic integrity and ethics, misrepresented the content of CN’s articles and applied false labels to Plaintiff.”
In January, Consortium News sent libel notices to both Global News and the CSE, demanding an apology and retraction of any mention of CN in Global News’ Dec. 10, 2019 online article and video reports.
The CSE did not respond to the notice. Global News refused to retract all mention of CN from the article or to apologize.
Global News did not contact Consortium News for comment before it published its article and broadcasted two TV reports. Instead, two months after the Global News reports appeared – and after receiving the libel notice, Global News attached an editor’s note to its article which is still online.
The article stated:
“Editor’s Note – Subsequent to the publication of this article, Consortium News advised Global News it disputes statements about it referred to in the CSE document that are reported on in the article. Consortium News has told Global News it denies any implication it is “An organ of or directed by the Russian government and says it is an independent news source.”
CN informed Global News that the editor’s note coming after publication was insufficient and insisted that without a retraction and apology it would pursue litigation.
Citing case law, the suit filed on Tuesday stated “A clear evasion from the truth and the failure to interview an important witness, who was easily accessible, supports a finding of actual malice.”
The Global News Reports
The lawsuit said: “The focal point of Global’s accusations was an article published in February 2017 in Virginia by Plaintiff and false accusations that Plaintiff – a Virginia corporation – is linked to Russia and knowingly published Russian propaganda to harm the reputation of Freeland.”
Based on exclusive receipt of a CSE secret document, Global News’ website said in its Dec. 10, 2019 article entitled, “‘Canadian eyes only’ intelligence reports say Canadian leaders attacked in cyber campaigns,” that Consortium News led this campaign. “The first attack was a February 2017 report in the ‘online Consortium News’ followed ‘in quick succession’ by pro-Russian English language and Russian-language online media, the CSE report says,” according to Global News.
A caption on the Global News site under a screenshot of the Feb. 27, 2017 Consortium News article read: “A CSE report says Consortium News was part of an attack from Russia on Chrystia Freeland’s reputation.” Freeland was the then Canadian foreign minister before becoming deputy prime minister in 2019.
Global News’ website, quoting from the CSE report, said:
“A small number of nation states are involved in cyber campaigns against Western democracy, but the national security assessment warns the threat and range of actors involved are growing. And the tactics used by Canada’s adversaries include ‘human intelligence operations,’ online and cyber influence campaigns and the use of state-sponsored or influenced media.”
Part of the CSE report, classified “SECRET CEO,” CEO meaning Canadian Eyes Only, was published by Global News.
Titled, “Cyber Influence Events against Canadian Politicians,” the report said:
“In early 2017 and Spring 2018, sources linked to Russia popularized MFA Freeland’s family history, very likely intended to cause personal reputational damage in order to discredit the Government of Canada’s ongoing diplomatic and military support for Ukraine, to delegitimize Canada’s decision to enact the Justice for Victims of Corrupt Foreign Offices Act and the 2018 expulsion of several Russian diplomats.”
The act referred to is Canada’s version of the controversial Magnitsky Act passed by the U.S. Congress. The lawsuit disputes that Consortium News is a “source linked to Russia” and that it was “directed” by Russia.
Global News’ website reported:
“The attacks on Freeland, who is now deputy prime minister, were partly meant to combat her support of laws targeting corrupt Russian oligarchs and leaders, the CSE records said and included allegations that her Ukrainian grandfather had edited a newspaper with ties to Nazis.
The cyber-campaign directed by Russia involved distortions of facts and was timed, targeted and according to the CSE, "Pushed the narrative to suggest that Freeland’s family immigrated to Canada as part of a wave of Nazi-collaborators."
The first attack was a February 2017 report in the ‘online Consortium News’ followed ‘in quick succession’ by pro-Russian English language and Russian-language online media, the CSE report said.
The CSE records obtained by Global News appear to document for the first-time direct allegations from Canada’s government that Russia directed these cyber campaigns.”