PMA deplores online harassment of journalists in Canada

24 September 2021

The Public Media Alliance joins its member CBC/Radio-Canada in voicing support for all journalists who are subject to online harassment because of the work they do.

Maxime Bernier speaking to the press at Mohawk College in 2019. Credit: Mohammed Essam /

On Wednesday, Twitter restricted the account of People’s Party of Canada Leader Maxime Bernier for 12 hours after he used the platform to insult three reporters and encourage his supporters to “play dirty” with journalists covering his campaign.

Bernier used the tweet to focus on three journalists from CTV News, Global News and the Hill Times. He called on his 160,000 followers to “tell them what you think of their disgusting smear jobs” and included the journalists’ email addresses in the same tweet.

Read more: Twitter restricted Bernier’s account for 12 hours after he urged followers to ‘play dirty’ with journalists (CBC News)

 The tweet came after the journalists’ questioned Bernier on links between the People’s Party and extremist and racist views, far-right extremism and claims that party members engaged in hateful, violent and racist incidents while on the campaign trail.

All three journalists received online abuse and threatening emails following Bernier’s tweet. The writer of one email to CTV journalist Christy Somos encouraged her to commit suicide and hoped that she would be sexually assaulted and murdered.

Global News reporter Ahmar Khan posted a screenshot of a an antisemitic and Islamophobic message he received.


In a statement, Canadian public broadcaster CBC/Radio-Canada wrote:

“It should be obvious to all Canadians that this harassment is unacceptable behaviour. When the incitement to harass journalists comes from public figures, it is even worse.

The work of journalists is vital to an informed public and a healthy democracy. Criticism comes with the job. But online harassment, particularly inciting others to attack someone for doing their job, puts the safety of people at risk. That the worst of this abuse targets women and racialized journalists should make clear just how dangerous this is.”

The statement concludes: “The responsibility to call out abuse online rests with all of us.”

The Public Media Alliance deplores the action taken by Bernier and condemns all online harassment, threats and attacks against journalists. It is the responsibility of journalists to hold power to account and inform the public sphere, they should not be targeted for fulfilling this role.

Next week, the Public Media Alliance will join CBC/Radio-Canada and public service media organisations from around the world in pledging to take joint action to address journalist safety issues such as online harassment and attacks.