Who did not hear about the arrest of journalist Antoine Trépanier of Radio-Canada-Gatineau while he was working on a survey of the executive director of Big Brothers and Big Sisters of the Outaouais, Yvonne Dubé? According to the CBC’s investigation, Yvonne Dubé was accused by the Ontario Superior Court of having « falsely presented herself as a lawyer » and of « practicing the law without authorization from September 2011 to March 2012 ». « . Following a harassment complaint filed by Ms. Dubé, the journalist was arrested, and could potentially be charged criminally, with Ms. Dubé being harassed because the journalist had contacted her to obtain answers to her questions.
As the former president of the Canadian Association of Journalists of the Montreal Chapter and very interested in journalistic ethics, I thought it was important to explain what a journalistic investigation is, what is it? ethics surrounding this work and what are the consequences for the public of bringing criminal charges against an incumbent journalist.
When a journalist begins an investigation into a subject, there is either a request from the public or a public interest to do the research. The role of the journalist is to gather as much material and evidence as possible on the subject he is dealing with and to corroborate what he finds by all possible legal means, such as witness statements, third-party statements, or the discovery of antecedents. The journalist is always neutral in his investigation, unlike columnists, editorialists or commentators who work rather on the basis of their opinions.
When all the research work is done and the journalist is able to draw conclusions that are of public interest, and that the investigation concerns a specific person as in the case of Madame Dubé, if the journalist was to publish as such his results without even opening the door to an interview, it would be at fault. The person concerned could cry out against injustice by not allowing him or her to comment or enlighten the journalist before publication and she might be right. If a factual error crept into the story and this error caused damage to the person’s reputation, it would open the door to defamation litigation, hence the importance of always attempting to have an interview with the defendant. targeted person to have his version. That’s exactly what Antoine Trépanier did with integrity. He first managed to talk to him on the phone, but at the time of the interview, she canceled. He then made a request to her by email. Ms. Dubé immediately complained to the police for harassment and the journalist was arrested. It is absolutely absurd that police arrest a journalist in the course of his work because the freedom of the press is a constitutional guarantee and that the police can not, like that and on the basis of a simple complaint, arrest a professional of the information. This has the effect of interfering with the normal process of journalistic work. Moreover, if Mr. Trépanier decided it, he could himself file a complaint for public mischief against Ms. Dubé, since opening a police investigation for nothing could have criminal consequences for her. In any case, preventing a journalist from doing his job is undemocratic and the entire population pays the price! Mr. Trépanier was finally not charged and the police apologized.