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Reporters lost one case and won another on Thursday in two Quebec justice matters that have raised alarms among journalists about press freedom, and police and court overreach.

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Nathalie Normandeau in a photo from 2009.Francis Vachon/The Canadian Press

Quebec Superior Court Justice Jean-François Émond ruled that Radio-Canada reporter Marie-Maude Denis must reveal her source in the corruption trial of the province’s former Liberal deputy premier, Nathalie Normandeau. Ms. Normandeau and her co-accused, party oragnizer Marc-Yvan Côté, have argued that their right to a fair trial was damaged by Ms. Denis’s reports and that the source must be revealed.

Radio-Canada immediately said it would appeal.

In the second matter, Quebec prosecutors dropped a criminal harassment case against a reporter who was arrested for asking the subject of a critical story for her version of events. Prosecutors issued a brief statement saying they have “concluded no criminal act was committed.”

Gatineau police also admitted they made a mistake in arresting the reporter.

The cases, combined with Bloc Québécois Leader Martine Ouellet’s threat on Thursday to sue TV pundits who criticized her, show that years of favourable court rulings, a Quebec public inquiry into protecting journalist sources and a federal law intended to protect them – all measures meant to reinforce freedom of the press – have done little to stop attacks on journalists, according to Stéphane Giroux, head of the Quebec Federation of Professional Journalists.

“It remains a daily battle on every front, from a small-town police force to the Superior Court of Quebec, it seems we’re always back to square one,” Mr. Giroux said. “It’s the 21st century. How can we pretend to be a functioning democracy when the press is continuously under attack by its institutions?”

One of the cases began early last week. Radio-Canada reporter Antoine Trépanier was completing a story that said Yvonne Dubé, the head of the Gatineau chapter of Big Brothers Big Sisters, did not inform her employer of her past of practising law without a permit.

Ms. Dubé went to police to complain, saying that Mr. Trépanier harassed her and that she was afraid after he called her twice and emailed her once over two days. The police arrested Mr. Trépanier without further investigation. They never asked him for his version of events, Mr. Trépanier said.

“I thought it was a joke,” he said, describing the moment police told him he was under arrest.

The reporter described cordial conversations with Ms. Dubé, who did not respond to a request for comment on Thursday. “I’ve never threatened a source or even raised my voice trying to get an interview, ever,” Mr. Trépanier said. “I’m probably the most gentle person in our newsroom. It made no sense.”

Mr. Trépanier said he was “blown away” by Gatineau police procedure and asked for an apology. He is considering a lawsuit.

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Gatineau Police Chief Mario Harel announces Thursday that Radio-Canada reporter Antoine Trépanier will not face criminal charges.Fred Chartrand

Gatineau Police Chief Mario Harel didn’t apologize, but he did tell reporters the investigator made a mistake arresting Mr. Trépanier strictly on the word of the woman and her expressed fears. The chief declined to go into her statements in detail, but said “we must conclude the officer clearly did not properly assess the situation based on the victim’s statement.”

Chief Harel said police officers will undergo training to better understand journalism and must now inform senior officers of any incident involving journalists. “The rights of victims are fundamental,” the chief said, “but the freedom of the press is also fundamental.” But, he added, the officer did not arrest Mr. Trépanier “to harm freedom of the press or hinder his work.”

In the court case involving corruption and Quebec’s deputy premier, Justice Émond said the public interest in a fair trial outweighed the federal law protecting journalistic sources, overturning a Quebec Court ruling. No appeal date is set.

Both cases involved Radio-Canada reporters who were lucky to be backed by a large Crown corporation with resources to fight, Mr. Giroux pointed out.

“There was a time when most media outlets were strong and could fight back when somebody tried to intimidate the press,” Mr. Giroux said. “Now, the press is weaker and not everyone can afford to fight. In the long run, this will be very damaging for all Canadians.”

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