November 16, 2016 3:01 pm
Updated: November 29, 2016 11:05 am

Journalist coalition demands federal public inquiry after Quebec police spying scandal

WATCH ABOVE: A coalition of journalists wants a federal public inquiry into freedom of the press after a police spying scandal rocked Quebec politics and law enforcement.

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A coalition of journalists and free speech advocates are in Ottawa to demand a federal public inquiry into freedom of the press.

This comes after the police spying scandal that rocked Quebec politics and law enforcement.

La Presse journalist Patrick Lagacé, whose phone was tapped by Montreal police, took part in the news conference in Ottawa Wednesday.

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READ MORE: Montreal Mayor Denis Coderre insists he never asked police to spy on reporter

The province of Quebec commissioned a provincial inquiry following revelations that city and provincial police spied on 10 journalists to ascertain their sources.

“Source protection is crucial to our ability to do our jobs as journalists,” said VICE News journalist Ben Makuch, who was served with an RCMP production order in 2014 to obtain his KiK messenger chat logs with a suspected ISIS member.

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

“It’s a fundamental tool of the trade that allows us to dig deep and hold the powerful accountable. Mine is just one of many recent cases of the growing erosion of press freedom here in Canada.”

“I’ve covered oppressive regimes across the world and the last opposition I thought I’d face in my ability to do my job would be here at home in Canada.”

Lagacé wants a federal law to be put in place that will protect journalistic sources.

READ MORE: Quebec to hold public inquiry into surveillance of journalists

“It was a shock for me to find out a couple of weeks ago that my phone was being surveilled by the Montreal police all in an effort to find out who my sources are,” he said.

My province seems to be taking this issue seriously. I hope the federal government will also take a leading role.”

“Our prime minister has famously said during the last election campaign that journalists are to be respected in this country: now is the time to go beyond words and take action.”

WATCH BELOW: Spying on journalists

Canadian journalist Mohamed Fahmy, who spent two years in a jail in Cairo for his reporting, is appealing directly to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau to address the issue.

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

“You stood beside me during my wrongful imprisonment and championed the cause of press freedom,” he said.

“I have faith that you will do the same for fellow journalists facing similar threats to press freedom in Canada.

The world views Canada as the pillar of democracy. so let’s keep it that way.”

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

The coalition argued the previous Harper government gave law enforcement too much surveillance power and the Trudeau government has not done enough to reverse the situation.

Tom Henheffer with Canadian Journalists for Free Expression (CJFE) argued it’s up to the federal government to be a global leader when it comes to freedom of the press.

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

“We call on the government to make several changes to protect press freedom and free expression in Canada,” he said.

“Passing press shield laws, repealing the dangerous surveillance provisions contained in Bill C-13 and ensuring that federal and provincial governments require any warrant for surveillance of journalists be requested by prosecutors, as opposed to police, and approved by judges, as opposed to justices of the peace.”

rachel.lau@globalnews.ca

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