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.

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Comments on “Subject Of Unflattering News Story Gets Journalist Arrested For Criminal Harassment”

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Anonymous Coward says:

Charges officially dropped

The DPCP already decided to drop the charges:

They also rarely publish their decisions to not press charges:

This is certainly an exceptional circumstance.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Charges officially dropped

A quick follow up:

They’ve apologised (kind of redundant, being Canada, but still) and pointed out

"Trépanier had the right to file an ethics complaint against the police over how it handled the case".

according to the National Observer:

That One Guy (profile) says:

Re: Re: Charges officially dropped

"Trépanier had the right to file an ethics complaint against the police over how it handled the case".

‘Yeah, we might have screwed this up, and if you want to file a complaint about it you are welcome to do so.’

Talk about not one but two somethings you would never, or almost never see a police department say in the US. An admission that they screwed up, and pointing out that the accused would be justified to file a complaint if they feel the need.

Michael (profile) says:

Re: Report Her

I am not sure how it works in Canada, but in the US, if you go to the police and report someone harassing you, they are supposed to take a statement and then determine if there is something they can do.

The person filing the complaint is actually not the problem here, it is the police officer(s) that decided that this was something even close to criminal harassment.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Report Her

The person filing the complaint might not legally be at fault, but trying to get a reporter arrested because they emailed you asking for comment is still the wrong thing to do.

That said, there’s a derth of details as to what exactly was communicated, both between the parties and to the police. How can you blame the police before knowing what they were told?

Anonymous Coward says:

"feelings" crimes, feminization of society, & its weaponization

This sort of thing happens more than we probably realize. There’s been this general trend in recent years of creating and enforcing an entirely new category of crimes that unlike the traditional definition of crime is not based on a perpetrator’s specific actions, but is defined by how those actions make someone else feel — especially someone with the privilege of being born into a legally protected “minority” class.

This is why ethnic jokes have now become hate crimes. Anti-stalking laws, originally created with good intentions, have been weaponized and are now routinely used against journalists and protesters, despite their activities ostensibly protected under the first amendment. It’s not surprising that Canada, without constitutional guarantees on free speech, has been easier than the US for far-left “social justice” activists to bend to their will. But the concept of crime being defined by feelings rather than concrete actions is not just a Left versus Right issue. Police who shoot and kill innocent unarmed people only have to say the magic words, “I feared for my life.”

In an increasingly paranoid society being ruled by concepts of “safe spaces” and “micro-aggesssions” and the perception of perpetual victimhood, it should not surprise us that people who commit real crimes (or at least have something to hide) are going to shoot these poison arrows against the people who seek to expose them.

David Muir (profile) says:

Re: "feelings" crimes, feminization of society, & its weaponization

It’s not surprising that Canada, without constitutional guarantees on free speech, has been easier than the US for far-left "social justice" activists to bend to their will.

Have a gander at the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, which is entrenched in the Constitution of Canada. We have a right called: Freedom of Expression. That is supposed to encompass more than speech alone. Having said that, SJW folks are a problem in both countries.

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