OTTAWA, July 28, 2020/CNW/ — The Canadian Association of Journalists (CAJ) condemns the attacks against journalists covering anti-mask protests in Quebec City and Montreal this past weekend and calls on police to sanction all behaviour by protesters that intentionally put journalists’ health and safety at risk.
“The physical assault, harassment and intimidation of journalists have no place in a democratic society and constitute attacks against freedom of the press, which cannot be ignored,” said Brent Jolly, president of the CAJ.
On Sunday, TVA journalist Kariane Bourassa was assaulted by two protesters who “hugged” her against her will while she was reporting on an anti-mask protest in Quebec City. Both protesters were not wearing a mask and ignored physical distancing rules when they interrupted her live broadcast.
The CAJ also condemns the verbal harassment and intimidation reported against multiple teams of journalists covering protests this past weekend. At the same protest in Quebec City, Radio-Canada’s Hadi Hassin was the target of multiple insults by participants as they flaunted public health rules. On Saturday, TVA’s Yves Poirier had a beer can and a flurry of insults hurled at him by protesters intent on intimidating him while reporting on an anti-mask protest in Montreal.
During the pandemic, police have laid criminal charges against at least a half dozen Canadians for behaviour they said posed a direct risk of spreading the novel coronavirus to their members. Similar behaviour was observed during last weekend’s anti-mask protests.
“The health and safety of journalists is paramount to a well-functioning democracy,” said Jolly. “It is our hope that the police will respond to the seriousness of these acts in the days to come.”
On Monday, Le Groupe TVA released a statement denouncing the acts against their reporters and camera people. They also strongly objected to the infringement of press freedom.
The CAJ echoes the comments made by the Syndicat canadien de la fonction publique, which called on news organizations to review their practices to ensure the safety of journalists assigned to cover potentially perilous events.
The Fédération professionnelle des journalistes du Québec has also spoken out, calling the events that took place “unacceptable” and saying journalists should never be intimidated for doing their job.
The Canadian Association of Journalists is a professional organization with more than 600 members across Canada. The CAJ’s primary roles are public-interest advocacy work and professional development for its members.
For more information contact:
Brent Jolly, CAJ president