News directors: Elected officials must take action to ensure press freedom
Montreal Chief of Police Philippe Pichet speaks to the media about the tapping of a newspaper reporter's smartphone at a news conference, Monday, Oct. 31, 2016 in Montreal. (Ryan Remiorz / THE CANADIAN PRESS)
Published Tuesday, November 1, 2016 7:13AM EDT
Last Updated Tuesday, November 1, 2016 11:20AM EDT
We, the directors of the major newsrooms in Montreal, would like to express our indignation and concern in the face of the electronic espionage practised by the Montreal police on journalist Patrick Lagacé.
It is unacceptable that investigators were able to obtain access to the telephone data and geolocation of a journalist for no other reason than to identify that journalist’s sources within the police force.
This is not the only case of unjustified intrusion of the police authorities in the work of journalists.
In June, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau described as “unacceptable” the unauthorized surveillance by the RCMP of journalists Joël-Denis Bellavance and Gilles Toupin of La Presse. Then in September, the National Assembly unanimously adopted a motion to highlight “the importance of the principle of protection of journalistic sources” after the Sûreté du Québec seized the computer of journalist Michael Nguyen of the Journal de Montréal.
In all three cases, elected officials either denounced those police actions, or were gravely concerned by them.
Concrete actions are needed to protect journalistic sources. This is essential for freedom of the press, a fundamental right under the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms and recognized by the Supreme Court of Canada.
Among these actions:
- The procedure for obtaining a warrant for surveillance of a journalist should be more burdensome for the police.
- The head of the Montreal police department, Philippe Pichet, must answer the following question, fresh in the minds of all journalists: Who has been spied on? And who is still being spied on by the police?
Now is the time for elected officials to move from words to deeds, reaffirming and guaranteeing freedom of the press and protection of journalistic sources.
Without such protection, the kinds of revelations that led to the uncovering of the sponsorship scandal or the Charbonneau Commission or any other investigative journalism will not be possible.
Editor, Montreal Gazette
Directeur général de l’information, Radio-Canada
Vice président Information, Journaux média QMI (Journal de Montréal, Journal de Québec, 24 Heures)
Vice-président TVA Nouvelles-Agence QMI
Président directeur-général Groupe Capitales Médias, Président et éditeur Le Soleil
News director, CTV News
Vice-président information, Cogeco
Directeur, Le Devoir
Directeur de l’information des services français de La Presse Canadienne