Subject Of Unflattering News Story Gets Journalist Arrested For Criminal Harassment
from the cops-just-doing-their-job-because-someone-else-was-just-doing-his-job dept
Oh, good. Someone’s trying to make journalism as dangerous as security research. A Canadian journalist who did something journalists do all the time is now facing the possibility of criminal charges for doing his job.
A Radio-Canada investigation, with a team including reporter Antoine Trépanier, revealed that the executive director of the Big Brothers Big Sisters chapter in Gatineau, Que., falsely portrayed herself as a lawyer and practised law without a licence.
Yvonne Dubé told Radio-Canada she knew nothing about the case and insisted she never represented anyone as a lawyer.
Trépanier had talked to Dubé over the phone Monday, eventually offering a formal interview request for the story before it was published earlier this week.
After initially accepting the interview, she declined it at the last moment. She instead spoke by phone.
The next day, ?Trépanier sent an email reiterating the offer for an interview.
Subsequently, Dubé contacted Gatineau police and made a complaint of criminal harassment against Trépanier.
Trépanier was arrested Tuesday evening and he signed a promise to appear in court.
Another chilling sentence follows.
The Crown has not yet decided if charges will proceed.
It seems like there should be nothing to decide. Obviously Dubé had zero interest in commenting on a story about her alleged impersonation of a licensed lawyer. Fine, but this scenario absolutely reeks of vindictive bullshit from a person who couldn’t stop a negative story from being posted and felt she should spread the misery around.
Needless to say, Trépanier’s employer, Radio-Canada, is deeply concerned with this turn of events. The director of its French services says he’s never seen anything like this in three decades of journalism. The police likely haven’t either, but they’re sticking to their guns.
Gatineau police held a media briefing early Friday afternoon, where the force’s director, Mario Harel, said “we have the obligation to listen to the victims … regardless if [the accused] is a journalist, a politician, a star or an ordinary citizen.”
All well and good, but requests for interviews or comments are not anywhere in the neighborhood of “threats” that should make someone “fear for their safety.” It’s just part of the business. Sure, it’s often an unpleasant part for those who’d rather not comment on articles uncovering their misconduct, but it’s not even close to criminal harassment.
If a journalist wants comments and a person doesn’t feel like giving them, “no comment” is a great way to terminate these communications. A phone call and an email are pretty mild compared to hordes of journalists camping out on your street or chasing you around from place to place with a microphone in their hands. I can see how some journalists might cross the line into harassment on occasion, but the underlying facts don’t suggest Trépanier did anything other than repeat his request once, using another form of communication.
Even if charges are dropped, light bulbs are going off over heads of subjects of unflattering new stories. Why not subject your perceived tormentor to a little ride and possible rap? That an arrest was the immediate result of this complaint is enough to make journalists have second thoughts about contacting story subjects for comments or interviews. When subjects start complaining they weren’t contacted before publication, they have Yvonne Dubé to thank for the new normal.