The Canadian Press
Quebecor will not appeal the judgment of the Superior Court of Quebec which, in February, ruled that the Quebec Press Council can handle complaints concerning all media, including those of Quebecor. The Quebec Press Council (CPQ) made the announcement in a statement released Thursday.
“The public will therefore be able to continue to rely on the Press Council as a recourse to lodge a complaint if they believe that a Quebecor media outlet – or any other Quebec news media outlet – has not respected the ethical standards of journalism such as than described in the Guide de déontologie du Conseil de presse du Québec, “said the Council.
In an interview with The Canadian Press on Friday, the president of the Quebec Press Council, Pierre-Paul Noreau, said he was “extremely happy with Quebecor’s decision and, obviously, extremely happy with the judgment that was rendered first by the ‘Honourable Judge Bernard Jolin’.
In a decision rendered on February 17, the court dismissed the motion for injunction and damages brought in 2018 by Groupe TVA and MédiaQMI, which publishes the Journal de Montréal and the Journal de Québec, among others.
These two Quebecor entities wanted the CPQ to stop handling public complaints concerning them, since they had withdrawn from the organization. They also claimed several hundred thousand dollars for damage to their reputation due to unfavorable decisions.
Judge Bernard Jolin concluded that the “Council enjoys freedom of expression protected by the Charter” and that “the decisions rendered at the end of its complaints process are the result of the exercise of this freedom”.
He also argued that “nothing compels MédiaQMI and TVA to join” this organization. Their right to freedom of association and the right not to associate are not violated by the complaints mechanism, the judge continued.
Mr. Noreau says the move allows the Press Council to “look forward.”
“It came to legitimize the work of the Council, it came to give increased credibility to our work, since we were challenging certain decisions and the judge said for his part that it was really done in a normal and reasonable way and that freedom of speech was in his right to express himself,” he points out.
Quebecor did not respond to a request for comment from The Canadian Press.
Groupe TVA and MédiaQMI walked out of the Press Council in 2008 and 2010, respectively. To justify their departure, the Quebecor newspapers said they were dissatisfied with the complaint handling process, criticizing in particular the weakness of the reasons for the decisions and their arbitrary nature.
Despite their absence, the CPQ nevertheless continued to study the complaints against them. Two of them were reprimanded by the Press Council.
These decisions concerning the Journal de Montréal were at the heart of Quebecor’s legal action. In his eyes, they damaged the reputation of the media.
The Quebec Press Council has been working for 50 years now. It represents a self-regulatory mechanism for the written and electronic press, but it has no judicial, regulatory, legislative or coercive powers. It acts as a court of honor and therefore imposes no sanction other than moral.
The CPQ has also recently embarked on a “major shift”, by deciding to seek external donors to support its mission. It remains mainly funded by membership fees from its members—journalism organizations—and a government grant.
The latter, from the Ministry of Culture and Communications, has also increased from $250,000 to $350,000 per year, announced the CPQ in its last annual report.
“What we want to seek external donors for is because we want to ensure the future of the Council in the medium and long term.There is a challenge facing the media in terms of profitability, a challenge that is still unresolved, “said the president of the CPQ.
Mr. Noreau assures that the Council has no financial difficulty, despite a small deficit this year, but that the demand is increasing.
“The Press Council is receiving more complaints than it used to […] and we have a responsibility to make decisions on those complaints fairly quickly, so we added an analyst and computerized our complaints system” , he explains.
The Council received 470 complaints from the public and opened 230 cases in 2022.
By external donors, the CPQ means in particular large companies and organizations “who want democracy to be well protected and for the media to fulfill their role of providing quality information”, says Mr. Noreau.
However, he assures that these entities will not have a say in the decisions of the CPQ.
“The process is not fully in place yet, but it’s clear that there is a completely watertight wall between you, the donors, and us, the members, in the sense that you buy into the mission, but you have no influence on the way we work,” Mr. Noreau insists.
The CPQ also welcomed two new members in 2022: Groupe Contex (Les Affaires) and La Presse canadienne.
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