The head of La Presse’s investigative team, Vincent Larouche, was presented with the prestigious Press Freedom Prize on Wednesday for his report “Tried in total secrecy” published in March 2022.
This prize is “given annually to a journalist who has produced stories of great public interest despite secrecy, intimidation, legal maneuvers, interference or risks to his personal safety”, indicated by press release Freedom of the Canada Press, which awards this prize.
In March 2022, Vincent Larouche’s report brought to light a shadow trial held before the Quebec Court of Appeal against a police informant. A procedure that goes against the principle of justice, which must be public.
“Transparency is the very foundation of justice. Or at least we thought it was until Vincent revealed that the justice system has decided to settle cases in complete secrecy,” said François Cardinal, associate editor and vice president of information for The Press.
“This is serious, and the fact that the Supreme Court decided to look into this issue proves it. In this sense, Vincent fully deserves this prestigious prize for his texts which recall the importance for the public of knowing what is happening in court, continues Mr. Cardinal. This, after all, is what ensures public confidence in the justice system. »
Freedom of the Press Canada noted that Vincent Larouche faced several obstacles in publishing this report.
“The Public Prosecution Service of Canada deployed a lot of resources to block La Presse’s case before the courts, in addition to refusing to provide the list of numbers of files opened in Quebec in criminal matters”, it is underlined in a statement.
“This Vincent Larouche cover prompted the Quebec Minister of Justice to promise that there will never be a secret trial again. The Barreau du Québec and the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of Canada have condemned this approach. »
In his acceptance speech at the National Arts Center in Ottawa on Wednesday, Vincent Larouche stressed the importance of finding solutions to adequately fund journalism in Canada.
“At La Presse, we are fortunate to have a large community of reader-donors, who allow us to delve into subjects of public interest such as this story of a secret trial. It is something very precious and I think this award today shows how much impact it can have in society. »
Rachel Pulfer of Journalists for Human Rights also won the Spencer Moore Achievement Award for efforts to repatriate and support Afghan journalists after Kabul fell to the Taliban in 2021.
The Certificate of Merit was awarded to freelance journalist Justin Ling for his work on disinformation networks. The International Cartoon Prize was awarded to Ali Miraee, an Iranian cartoonist residing in the United States.
In 2017, columnist Patrick Lagacé and La Presse won the same prize for their contribution to the public debate on the protection of journalistic sources and the surveillance of journalists by police forces.