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Grant Buckler's picture
Posted by Grant Buckler on June 15, 2012

Evoking memories of the G20 protests in Toronto in 2010, concerns are being raised about police treatment of journalists during student protests in Montreal.


Reporters have been arrested, told to stop filming and in some cases roughed up by police, according to reports.


Student journalists seem to be a particular target. Concordia University Television (CUTV), which has covered the protests extensively, aired a report containing interviews with several journalists who said they were targeted by police and some cases arrested.


In that video, Peter-Thomas Kennedy of Occupons Montreal 99% (OM99) Media describes being hit by rubber bullets and riot shields several times. While it is not clear whether he was targeted personally in all these incidents, he tells of one police officer who he says clearly knew he was a reporter pushing him against a truck with a riot shield, bruising his ribs.  


CUTV has also published another video showing the arrest of its program director, Laith Marouf, while covering a student protest.
Marouf told J-Source he was initially charged with interfering in police work but the charge was replaced by a ticket for loitering.


In another incident CUTV’s station manager was briefly arrested, then  released apparently after police on the scene got a call from a superior who had seen the arrest on CUTV. Marouf described this incident in an interview with CBC.


Marouf said the police are unused to having cameras following protests the way CUTV's have been this spring, and are “using whatever law they can think about to take out the cameras from the equation.”


During the course of the protests, he said, police tactics have evolved toward physical attacks on equipment and journalists themselves.

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Marouf said he has two broken ribs from an attack in late May. “We’ve had multiple injuries in our crews in the past few weeks.”


Marouf believes CUTV has been specifically targeted, receiving more abuse than reporters from mainstream media outlets. But larger outlets have also reported disturbing incidents.


La Presse said a reporter and a photographer were arrested during a demonstration at the constituency office of Line Beauchamp, the former Quebec Minister of Education, in April. Protestors entered the minister’s office.


The reporter, Philip Teisceira-Lessard, apparently remained in the hallway while the protestors were in the office, then stepped inside to take photographs as they left, but was trapped inside when a self-locking door closed behind him and was arrested inside the office.  Photographer Martin Chamberland was pushed to the ground and handcuffed several blocks away. He was with a group of protestors who police ordered to disperse.


Le Devoir reported in May that one of its photographers, Jacques Nadeau, was knocked down by a police horse while covering a protest.


In an incident caught on video and available on YouTube, a reporter for CJAD Radio was pepper-sprayed, apparently deliberately after a police officer opened the glass door from behind which he was observing protests.


Marouf also said police have in many cases hidden their identification. CUTV has captured video proving this and submitted it to the Montreal police, he said, but the police continue to deny that such incidents have occurred. Police officers without identification were also a concern during the G20 protests.


“If the media is a target and if those who are abusing their power are not identified,” Marouf asked, “how can they be held accountable?”
 

J-Source and ProjetJ are publications of the Canadian Journalism Project, a venture among post-secondary journalism schools and programs across Canada, led by Ryerson University, Université Laval and Carleton University and supported by a group of donors.