Montreal (AFP) - The number of Canadian journalists known to have had their phone records monitored by the police grew to seven on Wednesday following the latest confirmation that authorities tracked reporters' calls.
La Presse journalist Patrick Lagace said on Monday that he had learned the police in Quebec province were collecting data from his telephone calls during the first months of this year, adding his name to five other known journalists and a seventh whose identity remains unknown.
Police monitored Lagace's location using his iPhone's GPS chip and obtained the identities of those with whom he spoke or exchanged text messages during that time, CBC reported.
The public broadcaster also said the police had confirmed the monitoring of three of its own journalists' phones, including that of star morning-show host Alain Gravel.
The list also includes a Journal de Montreal reporter and a parliamentary correspondent for La Presse.
The revelations have prompted strong protests from officials, press freedom advocates and the media, with a group of editors issuing an open letter on Tuesday urging the government to safeguard journalists' right to protect their sources' identities.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau on Wednesday said his government "defends the freedom of the press" and that he would do whatever necessary to ensure it.
However, he added that he would wait for the results of ongoing discussions between the Montreal city government and police over the issue before drawing conclusions about the eavesdropping.
Lagace said police told him they had obtained warrants to monitor his phone because they believed he was receiving information from the target of an investigation, CBC reported.
However, the story in question was actually first reported by another media outlet, prompting him to believe the investigation was actually a thinly veiled attempt to ferret out his sources inside the police department, the broadcaster said.
The Quebec government on Tuesday announced an internal review of three main police departments, condemning the court-authorized monitoring of journalists' phone data.
Montreal Mayor Denis Coderre said he maintains confidence in the city's police chief Philippe Pichet, even though he has justified the collection of journalists' phone data by hiding behind the need to "enforce the law."
"He has my confidence and we're not going to have a public lynching," the mayor said.