Denial of access

SPVM denies access to Ricochet journalist, physically attempts to remove

A Montreal police officer grabbed and dragged Ricochet Media’s Ethan Cox while denying him access to a designated media area near a building fire, the publication editor and journalist said. 

Cox was covering a building fire in the Old Port neighbourhood. Cox told the Canada Press Freedom Project that when he arrived at the scene, he looked for an angle to photograph the building. He saw police tape blocking off a section of road near the fire; inside the police tape, he saw a parked police car and police officer, next to two broadcast journalists from CBC and CityNews Montreal who were filming reports. 

Cox ducked under the police tape and walked into the area to take a photo. A police officer immediately approached him and yelled that he had to leave, Cox told the CPFP. Cox responded that he was a journalist and wanted to take a photo of the fire. The officer asked Cox to show identification. When Cox responded that he didn’t have to, the officer told him to leave. 

Cox showed the officer his Canadian Association of Journalists membership card. The officer responded that because Cox’s card didn’t have a photo, it wasn’t valid. Cox told the CPFP that he decided he would take a photo and then leave. 

“I started trying to take a photo around him, and he grabbed the lapel of my jacket and started dragging me, obviously with the intention of physically dragging me out of this area,” he said. 

The officer dragged him about five feet, Cox said. As this happened, Cox said loudly, in French, “Don’t touch me. Let me go,” and then said “There’s a CBC camera right over there; do you want to be on TV?” At that point, the officer let him go, Cox said. 

The officer then said Cox would be arrested if he didn’t leave immediately, and asked if he wanted him to call backup and have him arrested. Cox said yes, and asked the officer to call his commander and the SPVM media relations unit. The officer went back to his car; Cox took a few photos of the fire and left. 

After leaving the scene, Cox called SPVM media relations and explained the situation. He said the media officer who took his call told him that the incident shouldn’t have happened and that Cox didn’t need to show ID, and offered to come to the area to make sure Cox got access to take a photo. Cox had already left and declined the offer. 

The SPVM told the CPFP in an email on April 21, 2023 that the service’s internal affairs division was investigating the incident.