Reporters Without Borders

Journalist's home searched, confidentiality of sources threatened

Journalist’s home searched, confidentiality of sources threatened

Published on Friday 16 March 2012.
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Reporters Without Borders is stunned and alarmed to learn that police yesterday raided the home of Journal de Montréal reporter Éric-Yvan Lemay, taking his finger prints, his computer and the clothes he wore while visiting Montreal area hospitals last month for a story about confidential patient records being left in hospital corridors where anyone can look at them

The raid was the result of a complaint by one of the hospitals accusing Lemay of “theft of property worth less than $5,000” and “trafficking in identifying information.”

“All Lemay did was expose serious threats to medical confidentiality, a subject of obvious public interest,” Reporters Without Borders said. “Nothing was stolen and there was no trafficking, so the nature of the charges is very worrying. Even more astounding is the nature of the search of his home, with forensic samples being taken as if this were a terrorism case.

“Such procedures violate both freedom of information and the most fundamental individual rights. We support the protests by the Professional Federation of Quebec Journalists (FPJQ), which has denounced the case, and we hope this investigation will be voided.”

In an 8 February report in Journal de Montréal (which is owned by Quebecor), Lemay described how he was able to read patient records that had been left lying around in the corridors of several hospitals. His story did not name the patients.

Shaky confidentiality

The raid on Lemay’s home has fuelled concern about the confidentiality of journalists’ sources and the fact that guarantees seem to depend on the good will of the decision-makers involved. On 1 March, a Quebec court ruled against an attempt by real estate developer Tony Accurso to get Radio-Canada reporter Alain Gravel to reveal his source for a story about a case of tax fraud case in which Accurso was not personally charged.

But, on 28 February, another judge ordered Maurice Giroux of the online newspaper MediaSud to reveal his sources for a story claiming that Marie-Josée Prud’homme, the president of Max Aviation and Cargair, had leaked a confidential report to another journalist.

Finally the Montreal media are on tenterhooks about the ongoing investigation into the source of media reports that former police officer Ian Davidson sold a list of 2,000 Montreal police informers to the local mafia. Davidson’s death on 18 January has been officially declared a suicide.

C-30 still pending

Reporters Without Borders continues to urge the government to abandon draft Federal Law C-30 which was submitted to parliament on 14 February and which would place Internet users under close surveillance in the name of the otherwise legitimate cause of combating cyber-crime.

The proposed law would inter alia allow the police to approach telecom companies and, without seeking a court warrant, demand that they hand over the personal data of clients.

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