The Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press protested the prosecution in New Brunswick, Canada, of an American reporter for his account of a pretrial murder proceeding for the Bangor Daily News in Maine.

In a letter to Canada's ambassador to the United States, Allan E. Gotlieb, Jack Landau, executive director of the committee, said prosecution of the reporter "because a small number of issues of the newspaper was brought into Canada by third-party distributors is . . . a perversion of the jurisdictional powers of the Canadian courts in an effort to restrict the First Amendment rights of American publications."

The judge in the trial had imposed a gag order.

The reporter, Berumond Banville, is scheduled to appear today at the provincial court in Edmunston, New Brunswick. He faces a maximum penalty of six months in jail if convicted.

Marshall Stone, managing editor of the newspaper, said in a telephone interview that Banville, who covers a cross-border area, would voluntarily comply with the Canadian police request that he appear in court.

Stone added that the paper had covered pretrial proceedings in the past without prosecution, and the paper's assumption was that prior restraint invoked in Canada did not apply to an American publication.

The committee letter said fewer than 80 copies of the paper are distributed in Canada.