Freedom of the press is under attack. And if this hadn’t happened to me, it might be hard to believe. Let me explain what happened, before I tell you how you can help.
I recently went to a shopping centre in Quebec City with Guillaume, a freelance journalist who often works as my cameraman. We were covering a protest, led by Francois Almalega, where people were simply going to shop without a mask. They just wanted to assert their right to walk around freely without face coverings.
But then things got crazy for me and my friend.
The police were already on scene as Almalega led the demonstration into a Walmart. Once inside, the protesters took off their masks, so the police moved in to remove them from the store. Almalega was arrested pretty roughly. And, like the journalists that we are, Guillaume and I documented everything.
While I was filming the arrest of Almalega, I turned around to realize that Guillaume was surrounded by police. Two of them were grabbing at his camera, asking him to turn it off.
We are journalists, and we don't turn off our cameras for anybody. Especially not in a public place, where there's no presumption of privacy, and while a newsworthy event is happening.
I started filming what was happening to Guillaume, because I didn't know if he was able to film or if the police had turned his camera off. One officer ordered Guillaume to turn his camera over to the police so that they could use it for evidence in court. Since when in Canada do we seize journalists' cameras for evidence in court? If the police want evidence, they can use their own body cameras, or they can use the surveillance footage from the Walmart. The only reason to seize our footage would be to hide how the police handled the demonstration that day.
The police ended up taking two SD cards from Guillaume's camera. I told the policeman that he had no warrant and no right to take our equipment. He said he didn't need it.
The cop, who obviously either doesn't know the law or doesn't care what the law is, arrogantly told me that I was a journalist and not a lawyer. But if he knows that I'm a journalist, then he should know he can't take our footage.
After illegally seizing our footage, the cop gave Guillaume a ticket for $1,550 for not masking, plus a seizure paper.
What if I had confidential interviews and compromising reports on those SD cards? I know we have images of police misconduct.
A journalist, whether independent or not, should never have to turn over their journalistic materials to a police officer in a free country.
At Rebel News, we're going to fight to recover our property, this footage and this evidence of police misconduct. The police need to be reminded that they are not above the law and we are going to fight to make sure this never happens to me or any other journalists in this country ever again.
If you'd like to help us protect the rights of journalists to work in Canada, without harassment or illegal seizure of our property by police, please make a donation to DefendJournalists.com to offset our legal costs.
If they can do this to us while we're holding cameras and recording them, imagine what the police could do to you. Please go to DefendJournalists.com to help us make this right.