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Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is promising to look into reports that the RCMP proposed shadowing an Ottawa journalist to learn who leaked secret information on a suspected terrorist.

Trudeau says he believes a free and independent press is an essential part of a strong democracy.

The case involves Joel-Denis Bellavance, a journalist for Montreal La Presse, and the leak to the newspaper of a sensitive spy agency document about Adil Charkaoui.

Information about the proposed surveillance comes in classified RCMP documents which a Federal Court ordered disclosed as part of a lawsuit filed by Abfousian Abdelrazik, another man the government once branded a terrorist and who was also subject of a damaging leak.

The Canadian Security Intelligence Service asked the RCMP for help tracing the Charkaoui leak; in a 2008 document, the police suggested shadowing Bellavance as one potential tactic.

Bellavance says he is shocked that the Mounties would consider following him.

Trudeau said he defends press freedom.

"The issues raised are issues that we will be looking into," he said when asked about the case.

Public Safety Minister Ralph Goodale was reluctant to delve into operational details, but noted that media freedom is enshrined in the Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

"It is something that I will expect all of those within my portfolio of responsibility to adhere to very carefully," he said.