Far-right group intimidates Vice journalists in their Montreal office

Masked men stormed into the Montreal office of the Vice digital media company Wednesday, apparently in an effort to intimidate journalists and show their dissatisfaction with a recent article about the far-right group Atalante Québec.

Atalante post says it didn’t like how it was portrayed in recent Vice article

The head of the Fédération professionnelle des journalistes du Québec said he worries this could be the beginning of increased attacks on journalists. (Vice Québec)

Masked men stormed into the Montreal office of the Vice digital media company Wednesday, apparently in an effort to intimidate journalists and show their dissatisfaction with a recent article about the far-right group Atalante Québec.

A half dozen members of Atalante — a group considered extreme even by other far-right organizations active in the province — ran around shouting and throwing papers at the employees, Vice reported.

"When they entered our offices, they offered flowers to the employee who opened the door. They then tossed leaflets and clown noses all over the floor," Vice reporter Simon Coutu wrote on the Vice website.

"The group went to my office to offer me a trophy they had tinkered on which read 'VICE media trash 2018.'"

Coutu said the men were dressed in black and wearing masks in the blue and white of the Quebec flag.

"We are clearly talking about bullying, but that will not prevent us from doing our job well," said Coutu after the incident.

Atalante boasted about what happened on its Facebook page, explaining that it wanted to react to the publication of a Vice article about it last week.

The group reproached Vice for what it describes as "provoking an open war" between the far-right and anti-fascists.

Montreal police arrived at the scene after the demonstrators had left. Police said that there would not likely be any follow-up to the incident, as no one was hurt and nothing illegal took place.

Coutu said Vice filed a police report, and it's asked the organization's legal department to look into whether a complaint can be filed against Adalante-Québec or someone from the group.

Intimidation of journalists

On Thursday, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said that he found what happened in the Vice office "alarming."

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau speaks out about intimidation of journalists 0:35
"My government will always support and defend the right of media to do their job," Trudeau said.

Quebec Premier Philippe Couillard added that the incident amounted to intimidation.

"What these people have done is attack freedom of expression," he said.

Quebec's journalists association, the Fédération professionnelle des journalistes du Québec (FPJQ), said it is "shocked and disgusted" by what happened.

"The FPJQ is scandalized," said its president, Stéphane Giroux.

"This is a direct attack on freedom of the press. It is an attempt at censorship and unacceptable intimidation. No journalist should be subjected to something like this. Journalists are encouraged to report any form of intimidation," Giroux said.

"All this starts with insults on social networks. Then, the journalists are attacked on the street," he said.

Giroux said he thinks these types of incidents are likely to increase.

With files from Radio-Canada, CBC's Lauren McCallum and The Canadian Press