The death of a police officer in Ottawa sparks renewed debate over free speech

The death of a police officer in Ottawa sparks renewed debate over free speech

Death threats. Racist taunts. Vows of violence. Inside the increasingly personal attacks targeting Canadian female journalists and media critics, one question lingers as to whether anyone is really hearing them.

A day after a man died of a heart attack in front of the Ottawa bureau of the CBC, a female reporter was threatened on Twitter and was then taunted and questioned by some followers — only to have them blocked.

After a woman reporter left her Twitter account open for months, some trolls went after her and her Twitter feed was deactivated on Nov. 9. (Twitter)

The death of Ottawa police constable Michael Coteau, who died last week in an apparent cardiac event — following a long battle with cancer — and a series of online threats have sparked renewed debate over free speech and the role of free media in Canada.

“It’s absolutely disgusting and appalling. I just wish he was not a police officer,” said one woman who asked not to be identified.

“He was a nice person. They say he was always nice to people. That’s what they say, but I don’t believe it. Nobody believed this guy was going to die like that.”

CBC’s investigative reporter Peter Mansbridge says the death has left him with a lot of questions. 0:31

A man who identifies himself as an Ottawa-area resident who frequents social media said the hashtag #MichaelCoteauDeath — which was trending on the website Twitter Wednesday night — was his way of voicing his anger over the death of Coteau, calling his death “the biggest crime in Ottawa ever.”

He said he planned to write a book about his encounters with trolls online; he declined to give CBC his Twitter passwords.

He said he does not believe that Coteau’s death has prompted anyone to actually commit any real physical violence against him.

Still, he said, he thinks there’s a culture growing in Canada that is dismissive of free speech.

“I don’t believe in free speech. I don’t believe in freedom of speech. I don’t believe in the right

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