Two Quebec cases involving journalists and the justice system have sparked protests from CWA Canada and other organizations that stand for press freedoms.
CWA Canada President Martin O’Hanlon said the media union welcomes the news that Radio-Canada will appeal a Superior Court ruling Thursday ordering investigative journalist Marie-Maude Denis to reveal her source in a corruption trial, and supports taking the case to the Supreme Court if necessary.
O’Hanlon said it’s frustrating that this sort of thing continues to happen, especially with the passage of federal legislation last year recognizing the right of journalists to protect their sources.
CWA Canada is already part of a group seeking intervener status in a Supreme Court case involving an attempt by the RCMP to force VICE Canada reporter Ben Makuch to identify a source.
“The media is not, nor should it ever be, an arm of the state,” O’Hanlon said. “As journalists, we must fight any attempt by anyone, especially authorities, to interfere with freedom of the press.”
“It is vital for free speech and democracy that journalists guard the anonymity of their sources. If not, sources, including whistle-blowers, will be far less likely to talk to journalists knowing that they could be identified and punished. The result? Canadians will be blocked from important information and stories about matters of vital public interest, including personal freedom and national security.
“As a media union, we will speak out loudly to protect freedom of expression and the role of a free press as a pillar of democracy.”
Also on Thursday, Quebec prosecutors said they would be dropping a criminal harassment case against another Radio-Canada reporter, Antoine Trépanier, who was arrested by Gatineau police for seeking comment from the subject of a story.
O’Hanlon expressed relief that sanity had prevailed in that case.
CWA Canada had strongly condemned the police action when it was reported publicly early last week.
“It is outrageous that a journalist would be arrested for doing his job and asking questions,” O’Hanlon said. “This sort of thing cannot be allowed in a democracy.”
Canadian Journalists for Free Expression expressed its “grave concern” over the arrest and noted that asking tough questions is not harassment.
Stéphane Giroux, head of the Quebec Federation of Professional Journalists, said that, despite a number of measures that have been taken to bolster press freedoms, the attacks continue.
“It remains a daily battle on every front, from a small-town police force to the Superior Court of Quebec, it seems we’re always back to square one,” he told The Globe and Mail. “It’s the 21st Century. How can we pretend to be a functioning democracy when the press is continuously under attack by its institutions?”