Quebec police tracked calls of six journalists: reports

November 3, 2016 5:20 AM EDT

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MONTREAL (Reuters) - Police in Quebec secretly tracked phone calls received and made by six French-language reporters in 2013, according to press reports on Wednesday, widening a media surveillance scandal that has already sparked a furor in the Canadian province.

Quebec's provincial police force, the Surete du Quebec, obtained warrants to track the journalists' calls but did not register their conversations, public broadcaster Radio-Canada reported.

The surveillance was part of an internal probe ordered by the force to find out who was behind leaks to media about a police investigation into organized crime infiltrating the province's construction industry, the Journal de Montreal newspaper reported.

Guy Lapointe, a spokesman for the Surete du Quebec, said on Wednesday night the force had looked into allegations of illegally obtained information by the journalists.

On Tuesday, Quebec Premier Philippe Couillard announced directives to better protect press freedom in the mostly French-speaking province, following reports of a separate incident where Montreal police spied on a popular columnist at newspaper La Presse by tracking his cellphone calls, texts and whereabouts.

Among the measures, the provincial government would make it harder for police to obtain a warrant to track journalists' calls, or listen in on their conversations, Quebec's Liberal government said in statement.

(Reporting by Allison Lampert; Editing by Alistair Bell and Peter Cooney)



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