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Police seize Montreal reporter’s computer to find source for story

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A Montreal journalist whose computer was seized by police after reporting on the alleged abusive behaviour of a judge did nothing wrong and broke no laws, said his managing editor on Thursday.

Provincial police seized Journal de Montreal reporter Michael Nguyen's computer at the behest of Quebec's judicial council on Wednesday at the offices of the tabloid newspaper.

Managing Editor George Kalogerakis said Thursday the search warrant indicated the council suspected Nguyen illegally accessed its website for details about a complaint against a Quebec Court judge.

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"I can tell you that our reporter did not break any laws to get his story," Kalogerakis said. "We do not break laws at the Journal. We will contest the validity of the search warrant as far as we can."

Nguyen reported in the newspaper last June that judge Suzanne Vadboncur allegedly hurled insults and acted abusively towards constables after a Christmas party in December at the Montreal courthouse.

The reporter received a copy of a surveillance video allegedly showing the incident – which was uploaded to the newspaper's website – as well as a report detailing a complaint against the judge.

Kalogerakis said the judicial council – which hears complaints against provincially appointed judges – suspects Nguyen "hacked" into its website to collect the information.

Nguyen and the newspaper deny the claim.

Kalogerakis said the judicial council wants the computer in order to find out how Nguyen received his information.

"We believe that this is case where people want to shoot the messenger," Kalogerakis said. "Our story was about the very questionable behaviour of a judge after a Christmas party. There were complaints about her behaviour and we thought this was in the public interest."

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Moreover, he said all the information reported in the story was made public after Vadboncur appeared in front of a disciplinary committee.

Quebec's professional order of journalists released a statement saying it "vigorously denounces" the seizure.

"It is unacceptable to search journalists or news organizations in order to discover sources when what was revealed was in the public interest, which is the case here," said president Jean-Thomas Leveille.

"The public has the right to know how representatives of the state who are charged with applying the law behave."

Kalogerakis said the computer will remain under seal until a judge rules on the validity of the search warrant.

In Quebec City on Thursday, members of the provincial legislature voted unanimously to recognize the importance of the principle of protecting journalistic sources.

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