TVA and MédiaQMI, who have not been members of the council since 2008 and 2010 respectively, asked that the council no longer deal with complaints from the public affecting them. The Quebecor media also sought more than $400,000 in damages for reputation damage after complaints were filed against her.
In a roughly 40-page ruling, Quebec Superior Court Justice Bernard Jolin dismissed their case, affirming that nothing compelled MédiaQMI and TVA to join the council. Your complaints procedure does not violate your right to freedom of association […] and especially their right not to unite.
According to Judge Jolin, MédiaQMI and TVA are asking the court to order the Conseil not to deal with complaints against them in order to prevent a hypothetical unlawful attack on their reputation. However, not all violations are necessarily flawed, although they can lead to a negative perception. In addition, it is easy to imagine that a decision favorable to her would not have such consequences.
Therefore […] Imposing a preventive gag on the council would be arbitrary and would violate its freedom of expression, the magistrate judges.
He concludes: Like any natural or legal person, the Council enjoys freedom of expression […] and the decisions made at the end of the complaints handling process are the result of the exercise of that freedom.
“By dealing with complaints […] and in disseminating the resulting decisions the Council has committed no error, having not departed from the conduct which a reasonable person in the same circumstances would have adopted. »
— A quote from an excerpt of the judgment of the Superior Court of Quebec
The Court also pointed out that, according to the evidence presented, when dealing with complaints against MédiaQMI and TVA, the Conseil is only trying to fulfill its mandate, which is to protect freedom of the press and defend the public’s right to quality information.
Judge Jolin also notes that the evidence shows that a significant majority of complaints against MédiaQMI and TVA are handled by the Conseil […] declared inadmissible or rejected.
The council deals with all complaints against all journalists and all news media distributed or broadcast in Quebec, whether or not they are members of the council, including MédiaQMI and TVA, can be read in the ruling. This global and unified approach is difficult to reconcile with a determined desire to target and harm them to the exclusion of all others.
The press council is satisfied with the verdict
In an interview with Radio-Canada, Press Council President Pierre-Paul Noreau welcomed the ruling, saying it was about the council’s ability and right to rule on non-member media, and said it was about a complaint about them.
“For us, this is an absolutely positive verdict. It fully legitimizes the Quebec Press Council to review anything published by the Quebec media, whether or not they are members. »
— A quote from Pierre-Paul Noreau, President of the Quebec Press Council
In the current context, in which some sections of the population distrust the media and journalists, it is important that the council ensures that the information disseminated in Quebec meets the expectations of Quebecers, added Mr. Noreau, who says his organization annually Received 250 complaints.
Established in 1973, the Quebec Press Council, a non-profit organization whose mission is to protect press freedom in the province and ensure the public’s right to information, is funded primarily by its member press companies (43%) and by the Quebec government (46%).
According to Mr. Noreau, the council’s budget is about $700,000. The $400,000 in damages sought by the plaintiffs would have been quite dramatic, he added.
Quebecor had not responded to an email request for comment as of Friday evening.