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3 other journalists allegedly under surveillance by Montreal police

The Montreal police have been trying to determine the sources used by journalists Félix Séguin, Monic Néron and Fabrice de Pierrebourg, according to the Journal de Montreal, Tuesday, November 1, 2016.
Montreal police have reportedly placed several journalists under surveillance. Patrick Lagacé/Facebook

After Montreal journalist Patrick Lagacé learned city police had reportedly monitored his iPhone for months to find out who he was speaking with, it has been revealed three additional journalists were also put under some form of surveillance, according to the Journal de Montréal.

The paper revealed Montreal police had allegedly tried to determine sources used by journalists Félix Séguin, Monic Néron and Fabrice de Pierrebourg without seeking judicial authorization.

In an attempt to find out which officers were supposedly speaking to journalists, the police apparently searched employee call records to find the journalists’ cellphone numbers.

READ MORE: La Presse says Montreal police placed journalist Patrick Lagacé’s phone under surveillance

This prompted several news editors to sign a letter requesting that the government act to protect journalists’ sources.

“Most of the investigative journalism and public interest journalism in Canada would come to a crashing halt if journalists were not able to protect their sources,” explained Lucinda Chodan, editor-in-chief of the Montreal Gazette.

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“Things like corruption, the Charbonneau inquiry, problems with the Mayor of Montreal in the past – all of those have been a result of sources, anonymously coming forward.”

Below is the letter:

Government must act to protect journalists’ sources

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.

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Concrete actions are needed to protect journalistic sources.

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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.

Signatories:

Lucinda Chodan
Editor, Montreal Gazette

Michel Cormier
Directeur général de l’information, Radio-Canada

Dany Doucet
Vice président Information, Journaux média QMI (Journal de Montréal, Journal de Québec, 24 Heures)

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Serge Fortin
Vice-président TVA Nouvelles-Agence QMI

Claude Gagnon
Président directeur-général Groupe Capitales Médias, Président et éditeur Le Soleil

Jed Kahane
News director, CTV News

Michel Lorrain
Vice-président information, Cogeco

Brian Myles
Directeur, Le Devoir

Jean-Philippe Pineault
Directeur de l’information des services français de La Presse Canadienne

Yannick Pinel
Editor in chief, Journal Métro