Threats to journalists ongoing

Threats to journalists in the North are continuing, despite over quarter of a century of the ‘peace process’.

Police made journalists on the Sunday World and Sunday Life aware of the latest threats. According to police, these came from the South-East Antrim UDA. The threatened journalists immediately received support from the National Union of Journalists and from rank-and-file journalists.

Since then, two churchmen who acted as intermediaries have said that South-East Antrim did not make these threats. However, the UDA is hopelessly fragmented and not under any control.

Importantly, a year after Lyra McKee was shot dead, all threats must be treated seriously. We must remember that September will mark 19 years since the Loyalist Volunteer Force killed journalist Martin O’Hagan.

There is a constant trickly of threats. In recent months, Derry journalist Leona O’Neill has been threatened by elements in dissident Republicanism. A journalist on the Irish News has also been threatened.

Police are investigating threats against Fermanagh journalist Rodney Edwards who has exposed widespread sexual abuse in Fermanagh. Edwards hit a nerve when he exposed the failure of police and other statutory and voluntary bodies to deal with the abuse.

The state is no innocent in these matters. It has a long record of criminalising journalists for refusing to betray sources. Last year, charges were dropped against Trevor Birney and Barry McCaffrey for their film investigating the Loughinisland Massacre of 1994. That was just the latest in a long series of cases. We fear it may not be the last.

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