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Quebec to hold public inquiry into surveillance of journalists

WATCH ABOVE: The Quebec government has announced a full public inquiry into freedom of the press and the police surveillance of journalists. Global's Raquel Fletcher reports.

The Quebec government has announced a full public inquiry into freedom of the press and the police surveillance of journalists.

READ MORE: 3 other journalists allegedly under surveillance by Montreal police

Justice Minister Stephanie Vallée said a panel of experts will be convened and will have all the powers typically given to a commission of inquiry – including being able to compel witnesses to testify.

Vallée and Public Security Minister Martin Coiteux made the inquiry announcement Thursday in Quebec City.

The province’s largest police forces have admitted this week to monitoring the phones of several journalists.

Thursday, Deputy Police Chief Patrick Lalonde admitted to another case of spying involving an investigation against a police officer in 2014.

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READ MORE: Quebec premier announces measures in wake of police monitoring of reporters

The force admitted it tracked communications with a journalist at that time, but Lalonde would not identify anyone involved.

He said the force is committed to transparency on this issue since it is now in the public eye.

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

Wednesday, the Sûreté du Québec (SQ) admitted it monitored six journalists’ phones in 2013.

It is alleged there was a phone call between Stephane Bergeron, who was minister of public security at the time, and the head of the SQ that encouraged provincial police to spy on journalists for their contacts.

Bergeron has denied he had any part in such a discussion, saying he never interfered with any investigation and never knew anything about journalists being involved.

READ MORE: Mixed reaction at Montreal City Hall over police spying scandal

He recused himself Thursday as public security critic for the Parti Québécois (PQ) amid the allegations.

WATCH BELOW: Spying on journalists

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Prime Minister Justin Trudeau spoke Thursday to say nothing of this nature is happening at the federal level.

“Not only is freedom of the press important, it’s one of the foundational safe-guards of a free democracy, a free society,” he said.

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“We have very strong safe-guards and protections in place to protect freedom of the press in the course of business conducted by CSIS and the RCMP.”

This comes on the heels of Quebec Premier Philippe Couillard‘s decision earlier this week to set up a committee of experts to look into the surveillance of journalists in the wake of revelations Montreal police kept tabs on the iPhone of La Presse reporter Patrick Lagacé.

On Wednesday, Quebec provincial police said they too had employed the controversial tactic on six other prominent journalists in 2013 in an effort to track down a person alleged to have leaked sensitive wiretap information involving a prominent labour leader.

— with files from Global News’ Rachel Lau and Raquel Fletcher.