The strong positions it adopted covered many aspects of our democratic life, including the provincial government’s tendency to cover up its decision-making processes, a habit adopted by many municipal administrations over several decades. Then Quebec premier René Lévesque, a former journalist, was associated with an act governing the financing of political parties, as well as one addressing the access to documents held by public bodies and the protection of personal information in 1982.
That legislation was a major step towards countering the culture of secrecy, an aberration in any society that claims to be democratic. Unfortunately, it was also subject to attacks from detractors, some of whom had been elected. This is just one of the dark issues at the heart of the FPJQ’s battles; others include journalists being arrested for refusing to reveal their sources; fratricidal wars raging between press enterprises; the dismantling of press rooms in radio and television stations, some of which served as models and training grounds for generations of journalists; and so on.
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Numbers may not reveal the whole story, but some are telling. In 1974, the FPJQ had 460 members; in 2015, that number was more than 2,000. This year, with 1,800 reporters, researchers, columnists, photographers and senior executives from over 250 print and electronic media outlets, the organization is still going strong. The slight decrease is by no means a disavowal of the actions or philosophy of the Fédération, though it has experienced its share of infighting.
The media crisis is not just a buzzword, a creation of the mind or the latest craze of a profession whose people are known for doubting everything. The challenges faced by Groupe Capitales Médias, whose future remains uncertain, and many other newspapers and media outlets demonstrate the importance of the FPJQ. More than ever, it must channel the energy and indignation of the torchbearers of the fourth power. Our journalists cannot do their work without the unwavering support of citizens who are convinced of the need for democracy, which, as Winston Churchill put it, “is the worst form of government except for all the others.”
This article appeared in the FPJQ’s journalism magazine Le Trente on November 21, 2019.