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Quebec journalists denounce right-wing group for storming Vice Quebec newsroom


MONTREAL — Quebec's federation of journalists is denouncing the conduct of a far-right group after a handful of people stormed the Montreal newsroom of Vice Quebec.

A half-dozen members of Atalante gained entry to the media organization's newsroom on Wednesday afternoon in an effort to intimidate journalists.

Vice Quebec said in a story published after the attack the majority of the protesters from the staunchly anti-immigration group were sporting Fleur-de-lis masks.

It said the Quebec City-based group dumped leaflets and clown noses all over the newsroom and awarded journalist Simon Coutu a trophy for being a "garbage media."

Atalante said on its Facebook page it was responding to a report last week about the increased presence of extreme right-wing groups this summer in Montreal and the resistance of anti-fascist groups to the situation.

There has been mounting rhetoric in recent months as asylum seekers continue to come into Canada in large numbers through an open stretch of the Quebec-New York border.

The group claimed on its social media account that Vice's report last week was stirring up violence in an already tense climate but the media outlet argues the matter is of public interest.

"For us, the extreme right is an important phenomenon that deserves to be covered," Vice Quebec editor-in-chief Philippe Gohier said in a telephone interview.

"We do not intend to stop covering that just because there are people who are trying to intimidate us."

Stephane Giroux, president of the Quebec federation of journalists, called the impromptu newsroom visit a direct attack on press freedom and he encouraged reporters to denounce all forms of intimidation.

"A group can adopt any ideology they want, it's not for us to judge," Giroux said in an interview. "But from the moment (people) intimidate and incite violence against journalists, the messenger is being attacked and that is unacceptable."

Giroux suggested Vice file a police complaint but Gohier said the matter would be discussed internally before deciding what to do next.

No one was injured and there was no apparent damage inside the offices.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau was asked about the incident as he continued his visit Thursday to La Malbaie, Que., two weeks before the town hosts the G7 summit.

"The incursion into Vice's offices yesterday is something I find alarming," he told reporters.

"It's an example of intimidation of the media that is absolutely unacceptable. The rise of far-right voices is extremely concerning around the world."

Premier Philippe Couillard also reacted and said the incident amounted to intimidation.

"This goes against freedom of expression," he said in Montreal. "What these people have done is attack freedom of expression.

"Yes, freedom of expression includes the right to say anything, and sometimes even stupid things, but we have the right and the duty to answer that."

  

Annik Chainey and Stephane Blais, The Canadian Press

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