Belfast Telegraph

Journalist’s seized contacts to be returned

By Brendan McDaid

A journalist whose phone was confiscated by police probing dissident activity has cautiously welcomed assurances his SIM card will be returned within days.

Freelance journalist Eamonn MacDermott said he was informed yesterday by the PSNI’s G District Commander Stephen Martin that the card containing some of his numbers would be returned.

Mr MacDermott — who was yesterday abroad on holiday — had his phone taken off him after going to Strand Road PSNI Station in Londonderry, at the request of police, on Thursday.

Mr MacDermott said he was told the phone was taken because he was contacted with a claim of responsibility for a Real IRA bomb near the relative of a former PSNI officer last September in Derry.

The move sparked a major backlash from union officials and politicians yesterday.

Mr MacDermott said: “The local police chief phoned me and said he had talked to the investigation team and I will get back some of the contacts on my phone.

“I want the lot back, the phone as well, but at least this is something. Some of my contacts are on the SIM card and some are on the actual phone.”

Mr MacDermott said he felt the move demonstrated how police were “feeling the heat a bit” following the widespread publicity.

“The story has gone everywhere, kept the pressure on them. I want to thank all my colleagues, the NUJ and those who have shown support.”

Mr MacDermott has left instructions that when the SIM card is released if should be given to his solicitor until his return.

Earlier yesterday Sinn Fein Justice committee member Raymond McCartney said: “Mr MacDermott has stated that he has co-operated with the PSNI investigation and therefore this can only be interpreted as an attack on the freedom of the Press and protection of sources.”

National Union of Journalists’ North West represenative Eamonn McCann said the police action had major implications for all media.

“There are dangerous implications here for journalists and for the protection of sources and confidential information, which are absolutely central to any journalist to enable them to do their job” he said, adding: “This is an attack on the freedom of the Press.”

NUJ Irish secretary Seamus Dooley welcomed the promised return of the SIM card but demanded the return of Mr MacDermott's mobile phone.

A PSNI spokesman said: “The PSNI has a duty to investigate all crime in Northern Ireland and officers will use all legal methods at their disposal to carry out those investigations.

“Any member of the public who has a complaint to make about police actions can contact the Police Ombudsman for Northern Ireland.”

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