Congratulations to Vincent Larouche, winner of the 2023 Press Freedom Prize
World Press Freedom Canada (WPFC) is delighted to announce La Presse’s Vincent Larouche as the winner of the 2023 Press Freedom Award.
The award is given annually to a journalist who has overcome secrecy, legal maneuvers, political intimidation, interference, or other safety risks to produce an outstanding body of public interest reporting.
In March 2022, Larouche uncovered a secret trial conducted in the Quebec Court of Appeal, in which prosecutors pursued charges against a police informant. Larouche leveraged confidential sources, access to information legislation, court documents, and more to peel back the layers of this phantom case, which ran counter to Canada’s open court principle.
The Public Prosecution Service of Canada deployed significant resources to block La Presse in court, in addition to refusing to hand over its list of court file numbers opened in Quebec on criminal matters. Larouche’s coverage prompted Quebec’s justice minister to vow such a trial will never be conducted in shadow again. The practice was condemned by the Bar of Quebec and chief justice of the Supreme Court of Canada.
Much information related to the trial remains sealed. The Supreme Court has agreed to hear an appeal of the Quebec Court of Appeal decision that maintained the blanket of secrecy.
Citation of Merit
WPFC is also awarding a Certificate of Merit to freelance journalist Justin Ling, who has a long track record of breaking through walls of silence around police cold cases, contributing to the nationwide discussion on access to information and press freedom, and shedding light on sophisticated networks of disinformation that contribute to alienation and radicalization in Canada. This was highlighted in his 2022 coverage of the “Freedom Convoy” protests – for which he received physical, legal and political threats from organizers and protesters.
A certificate of merit is also awarded to Charlie Pinkerton who broke the story of Greenbelt developers attending the wedding party of Ontario Premier Doug Ford’s daughter. Pinkerton resigned from his job at QP Briefing, which is owned by iPolitics, over alleged interference. The Toronto Star subsequently published the story.
WPFC commends former QP Briefing editor Jessica Smith Cross who also resigned over the purported interference from the top.
Spencer Moore Award
WPFC has also selected Rachel Pulfer, executive director of Journalists for Human Rights (JHR), as the winner of the 2023 Spencer Moore Award for Lifetime Achievement. This award honours the recipient’s sustained and demonstrable commitment to improving press freedom and freedom of information.
After the fall of Kabul in 2021, Pulfer spearheaded an effort to rescue Afghani journalists and human rights defenders targeted by the Taliban.
Pulfer and the JHR team have helped evacuate some 2,000 vulnerable Afghans, including journalists, interpreters and human rights defenders. The Toronto-based organization’s subsequent Afghan Journalist-in-Residence initiative further provided fully paid placements for 10 of these newcomers at leading Canadian newsrooms.
Led by Pulfer since 2011, JHR is a Canadian charity that empowers journalists around the world with the skills to cover human rights stories fairly and effectively in their environments. It also advocates for press freedom issues in Canada.