"Le Journal de Montréal" publishes a controversial first page on the "Indian" variant B.1.617 Receive the last hour alerts of duty

Le Journal de Montréal and Le Journal de Québec were criticized from all sides on Thursday after they illustrated on the front page the presence of the Indian variant in the country with a photo of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau in traditional Indian attire. The political class fears that this one will fuel "prejudices", while the journalists of the two daily newspapers of Quebecor are worried about their credibility.

“As journalists, we suffer the backlash. It's our reputation and our credibility that are being called into question," confides the president of the editorial union of the Journal de Québec, Jean-François Racine, recounting the "unease" he experienced when he discovered the first page of his Thursday morning newspaper.

On this one, the photo of Justin Trudeau, dressed in traditional Indian clothing worn during an official trip in 2018, was chosen to illustrate the presence of the Indian variant in Canada, including a first case in Quebec was announced the day before. “The India variant has arrived. So, Justin, are we cutting ties with India quickly this time? headline the daily newspapers.

Photo:Paul Chiasson Archives The Canadian Press

An editorial choice that raised eyebrows. On social networks, many Internet users quickly shared their dismay, some even believing it was a joke. Several have denounced “amalgams” which contribute to fueling “received ideas” and racism towards certain ethnic communities. Others have outright called for a boycott of Quebecor newspapers.

However, the front page of the daily newspapers is not the responsibility of journalists, it is a prerogative of the management, recalled the unions of the two newspapers. "Journalists are concentrating on doing their job of informing the population on issues of public interest," said the Journal de Montréal's Information Workers' Union, hoping that this controversy "does not undermine the the public of the quality and rigor of the work carried out every day by [its] members".

“Le Journal de Montréal” publishes a controversial front page on the


Faced with the wave of criticism, the editor-in-chief of the Journal de Montréal, Dany Doucet, assured that his team never wanted to "offend anyone or target a particular group". "We are sorry if some people have been hit," he wrote in the afternoon on the newspaper's website. “It is unfair to attribute to us any intention other than that of highlighting the delicate position in which the government of Justin Trudeau finds itself on the question of the protection of our borders in a time of pandemic”, he added. , emphasizing the quality of the work of its journalists.

During the day, dozens of people filed complaints with the Quebec Press Council. The organization specifies that the public has up to three months to file a complaint against “a journalistic product” before the complaints committee examines the file and assesses whether there has been fault.

"Even if there are 200 complaints, Quebecor still remains indifferent to the decisions of the Press Council," laments, however, Professor Marc-François Bernier, who teaches journalism ethics and professional conduct at the University of Ottawa. He recalls that the Quebecor media have not been members of the Press Council for more than 10 years. They have even been suing him in court since 2018 to stop him making decisions about them.

The front page is nevertheless “highly problematic” from an ethical point of view, he argues. By using a photo of Justin Trudeau in 2018 — which has already had its share of controversies — we divert its original meaning to give it another meaning and then deceive readers.

Mr. Bernier also believes that this front page moves away from the primary purpose of a media: to deliver journalistic information. “The media can make opinion and satire, but through their columns or their caricatures. There, on the front page, it is propaganda, sensationalism. »

Joined by Le Devoir, the Professional Federation of Journalists of Quebec indicated that it "never comments on the editorial choices of the media".

Reactions were also strong on Thursday in the National Assembly. “We have to be careful not to stigmatize certain communities,” said Prime Minister François Legault, after his Minister responsible for the Fight against Racism, Benoit Charette, shared his concerns about the consequences of such a one.

“We have seen an upsurge in racist acts targeting people of Chinese descent since the start of the pandemic. With similar representations, we risk fueling prejudice, ”he wrote on Twitter.

For the leader of the Liberal Party of Quebec, Dominique Anglade, the daily newspapers of Quebecor have made “amalgams” and nourish “preconceived ideas”. "It's not acceptable," she insists.

The same goes for the Parti Québécois and Québec solidaire (QS). QS co-spokesperson Manon Massé also recalled that, "in fact, the virus has no ethnicity".

To see in video