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    'Huge Scandal:' Spying on Journalists is a 'Heavy Reputational Blow to Canada'

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    Earlier this week, it was reported that the phones of Patrick Lagace, an investigative journalist of the Montreal newspaper La Presse, had been wiretapped by police since early-2016.

    Two days later, the scandal deepened after CBC reported that at least six other journalists had been subjected to police spying in recent years, starting in 2013. Among them was famous Radio Canada host Alen Gravel.

    The situation has raised a concern over whether there is real freedom of the press in Canada.

    In an interview with Sputnik France, President of the Quebec Professional Federation of Journalists Jean-Thomas Léveillé shared his thoughts on the situation and its reputational consequences for Canada.

    He noted that there were different reasons why the phones of those six journalists were tapped. According to police, there are two different situations.

    "The first situation was described by media earlier this week. It is about Patrick Lagace. The Montreal police said that his phone was tapped to identify the police officer who leaked information to media. This means that it was part of an inner investigation," Léveillé said.

    He underscored that the explanation provided by the police cannot be denied or confirmed.

    However, he underscored, the saddest part of the story is that the police tracked the journalist for such a long time and with such a great scope.

    "Of course, they [police] monitored everyone who contacted the journalist during six months. But all these people were not the subject of the initial investigation," he pointed out.

    Léveillé added that another negative side of the situation is that the case involved sources providing journalists with information.

    "These people communicate to media to reveal subjects important for the public. These people become the target of police investigations. We’re very concerned about this because such actions create the atmosphere of intimidation. People would fear to tell things that are of public importance," Léveillé said.

    The Quebec Federation of Journalists demands from the local government to launch an independent probe into the activities of the police.

    "As for the freedom of press, this is a heavy reputation blow to Quebec and the entire Canada. This is a huge scandal which would have serious consequences in the long-run. For example, there is the risk that Canada will be downgraded in the World Press Freedom ranking," Léveillé concluded.

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    journalists, espionage, Canada
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