(Quebec) The journalism award announced by François Legault has unnerved the Quebec Journalists Association (FPJQ), which finds the Prime Minister’s departure uncomfortable amid misinformation circulating on social media.
Posted at 1:28pm
“The fact that this happened at a time before the election, the fact that it was the prime minister who announced it in a speech is certainly an awkwardness,” said Michaël Nguyen, president of the nonprofit, which brings together around 1,600 Interview journalists in more than 250 print and electronic media outlets The press Tuesday.
On Monday, Mr Legault announced the creation of the René Lévesque Prize. “This will be the highest award presented by the Quebec government for a notable contribution to journalism. It’s a great way to commemorate René Lévesque’s contribution to Quebec journalism,” he said during a speech given as part of the launch of L’année Lévesque, a series of events organized to mark the 100th anniversary of his birthe Birthday of the founder of the Parti Québécois.
This award is presented by the Quebec government to a journalist who “has made a significant contribution to increasing the impact of information or to the quality of information or to the journalistic profession in Quebec,” he said.
The FPJQ is not opposed to government awards. For example, the Prix Guy-Mauffette is the highest award bestowed upon an individual for their notable contribution to the excellence of Quebec radio, television or written press or digital media, and is conferred by Quebec Awards.
Mr. Nguyen, clerk for The Journal of Montreal, makes this analogy. “There is justice and the appearance of justice. […] Journalism at a truly crucial time, under attack from all sides. If you announce it like that, the performance is not outstanding,” he says.
In this “era of disinformation,” Mr Nguyen has had to constantly defend that media receives state aid – “like many other industries,” he clarifies. He hopes to quickly learn the details of the announcement, in particular the selection criteria and the composition of the jury. “Who will they be? elected officials? Political helpers? An independent body? There are a lot of details that we don’t know, that doesn’t add to appearances,” he explained.
He also points out that the René Lévesque Foundation already awards a journalism prize, the René Lévesque Prize, which recognizes “excellence and talent in the student press”. The FJPQ itself has awards to recognize the best written and electronic reports from the Quebec press, the Judith Jasmine Awards.
The prime minister’s office argues the timing was right. “If we can’t announce the René Lévesque Prize on the occasion of its centenary celebrations, when can we? ‘ says the PM’s press secretary, Ewan Sauves, in an email.
“In this era of misinformation and the proliferation of questionable sources of information, this award is a reminder of the importance of journalism and the need for democracy to be able to count on the presence of credible, rigorous and independent media,” he added.
He is convinced that the award announced by Mr. Legault “will inspire many current and future journalists”. Culture Minister Nathalie Roy’s office says the prize will be governed by the Prix du Québec, which “are not political instruments,” affirms Maxime Roy. The communications director of M.me Roy adds that “for each Prix du Québec, the applications are evaluated by a separate jury, made up of like-minded people from cultural or scientific circles and made up of 3 to 5 people representing the areas and disciplines”.