May 21st, 2024

Quebec media say new bill to protect politicians is excessive, harms free speech


By The Canadian Press on May 16, 2024.

Quebec newsroom leaders are calling out a new bill to protect politicians from abuse, saying the legislation is excessive and potentially stifling to democratic debate. Quebec Municipal Affairs Minister Andrée Laforest makes an announcement in Scott, Que., Thursday, Feb. 8, 2024. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jacques Boissinot

MONTREAL – Quebec newsroom leaders are calling out a new bill to protect politicians from abuse, saying the legislation is excessive and potentially stifling to democratic debate.

Media companies – including The Canadian Press, La Presse, Quebecor, and CBC – said today in an open letter to the government that the bill contains measures that “compromise the freedom of expression of citizens and the media.”

The bill tabled in April by Municipal Affairs Minister Andrée Laforest aims to protect elected officials from threats and intimidation, and includes fines between $500 and $1,500.

A person who threatens, intimidates or harasses a municipal or provincial politician in a way that prevents them from doing their job or makes them worry for their safety could be fined.

However, media companies say the bill is too broad and allows elected leaders to potentially silence unfavourable criticism from both citizens and journalists.

Élodie Masson, a spokesperson for Laforest’s office, says the bill is not about restricting criticism but encouraging civilized debate amid an increase of resignations among municipal councillors.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published May 16, 2024.

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