Reporter fired over story about politician’s apparent links to organized crime
Reporters Without Borders condemns the dismissal of a Quebec province newspaper reporter, who was fired for investigating a parliamentary candidate’s suspected links with organized crime, and voices concern about the future of local independent journalism in Canada.
Frédéric Marcoux, a young reporter for the French-language weekly L’Express in Drummondville, in the centre of the province, was fired on 2 October after investigating William Morales, the ruling Liberal Party’s newly designated local candidate for the federal parliament, and his links with persons allegedly associated with Colombian organized crime.
“I arrived at my editor’s office and my [dismissal] papers were ready”
Marcoux told RSF he was shocked by his dismissal, which he attributed to fear of organized crime prevailing within the newspaper.
“I believe in a strong press that, regardless of the region in the world, doesn’t surrender to fear or threats,” he said. “I was punished simply because I wanted to shed light on this reality.” Subjected to intimidation while researching the story and fearing for his life, he has filed a complaint with the Quebec criminal police.
“Ensure the information gets out”
Marcoux wrote an initial story on the subject on 17 September after Morales was named as the Liberal Party’s local candidate for the next federal elections. On the evening of his nomination, Morales was seen publicly embracing Julian Andrey Mazuera, a person indicted on a drug trafficking charge in 2013. It was this that prompted Marcoux’s investigations.
Marcoux’s alarmed editor asked him to drop this angle. “No more Colombians and organized crime,” she told him. “In your story about Morales, don’t mention the names of Mazuera and Milena [another person with alleged organized crime links].” Prevented from being published, fearing censorship, Marcoux told a national radio station about the case.
Marcoux’s editor, Lise Tremblay, gave RSF a more nuanced version of the affair. She said the internal crisis had broken a “bond of trust” and that this had encouraged Marcoux to leave. She added that, by managing to get five articles published on this story, he had “covered all the angles” and that “for the time being, there was nothing more to add.”
“It seems that this young journalist tried by all possible means to do his job to report the facts and to seek the truth despite obstacles and intimidation,” RSF spokesperson Pauline Adès-Mével said. “This case must not set a precedent for journalists who want to cover sensitive subjects, especially those working for local media. The public’s right to information is fundamental in all democracies.”
Canada is ranked 18th out of 180 countries in RSF’s 2019 World Press Freedom Index.