New York, March 23, 2018–The Committee to Protect Journalists condemned a Quebec Superior Court ruling that ordered a journalist to reveal her sources. The court ruled yesterday that Marie-Maude Denis, an investigative journalist for the French-language public broadcaster Radio-Canada, must reveal her sources in an ongoing court case in which two politicians from the ruling Liberal Party are charged with corruption, according to press reports.
The ruling comes a few months after the Canadian parliament unanimously passed a shield law that allows journalists to protect their sources. In his March 22 ruling, Justice Jean-François Émond argued that a reporter can be forced to testify when public interest from the outcome of a criminal trial outweighs that of protecting journalistic sources.
“The Quebec Superior Court ruling that Radio-Canada reporter Marie-Maude Denis must reveal her sources is a chilling moment for press freedom in Canada,” said CPJ North America Program Coordinator Alexandra Ellerbeck. “Canada should show that it is committed to protecting and supporting journalists who cover vital public interest stories on corruption and politics.”
The ruling annulled a lower court’s decision to throw out prosecutor’s requests to have Denis and Louis Lacroix, a reporter for radio broadcaster Cogeco, testify in the same case. The new ruling does not require Lacroix to testify.
Radio-Canada announced in a statement that it will appeal the decision.
Michel Cormier, the station’s head of news and current affairs, said in the statement that the ruling threatened press freedom and the public’s right to be informed. “The protection of confidential sources is fundamental to investigative journalism,” Cormier said.
Quebec provincial police previously put Denis and six other reporters under surveillance in 2013 by tracking their incoming and outgoing calls and texts to try to identify sources within the police, according to La Presse.
Protection of sources is an ongoing issue in Canada. Last year, CPJ released a timeline documenting surveillance of Canadian reporters. CPJ also documented how Canadian authorities attempted to force VICE News reporter Ben Makuch to hand over his notes. The case is due to be heard by the Supreme Court this year.