Pipe bomb attack on Northern Ireland photographer Mark Pearce's home
Published 14/12/2012 | 00:00
A pipe bomb has been found at the home of a Northern Ireland press photographer in Co Down.
The device was left outside the front door of Mark Pearce's family home in Mayobridge near Newry. His children, aged 12 and 14, were in the house at the time.
He said his family were woken by police after midnight at their home in Carraig Crosain. Homes in the street were evacuated.
Army bomb disposal officers dealt with the bomb which was declared viable.
Residents were allowed to return to their homes shortly after 5:30am.
Mr Pearce said he believes he was targeted because of his job.
He said that he and his family were 'terrified' but that he was determined to continue his work.
Mr Pearce said: "The police explained that it was a viable device and that we were very lucky. I cannot grasp why our lives were put in danger."
He said his family was concerned about what this evening could bring.
"As photographers, we have this ability to distance ourselves from what happened. To a certain degree it does not seem real - but this is real. This is my family, this is my children. It is horrible."
He said he had no proof of who may target him, but believed it may have happened because of photographs which he had taken.
The cameraman added he had recently received a death threat.
Audio: Mark Pearce speaks to Stephen Nolan
Sinn Fein MLA Caitriona Ruane said those who left a pipe bomb at the home of the photographer represented an affront to democracy.
"In any civilised society a free press is paramount in maintaining democracy and this attack needs to seen in that context," she said.
"While people may not agree with sections of the media there is no excuse to attack them or their families."
SDLP MP Margaret Ritchie said the perpetrators were intent on causing serious injury.
"Disruption was caused to that family and to local residents who returned to their properties earlier this morning. The thoughts and prayers of the entire community are with the family," she said.
"The message is clear to those who perpetrate these despicable acts - get off our backs and let us live in peace and harmony."
Alliance Party assembly member Trevor Lunn said freedom of the press is paramount in any democratic society.
"There should never be any attempt to silence the press through the use of violence. I would like to extend my support to Mark and his family," he added.
National Union of Journalists general secretary Michelle Stanistreet said it was a worrying development at a time of heightened tensions.
"The targeting of a journalist in this way is totally unacceptable and we are deeply concerned by this attempt to intimidate journalists," she said.
NUJ president Barry McCall said: "Coming after death threats against elected representatives this is a direct threat to those who seek to report the news in Northern Ireland and must be condemned unequivocally. It is a reminder to journalists and media organisations that we have to be extra vigilant."
Paul Connolly, who is the UK Society of Editors board member for Ireland, said the attack was a "sinister and worrying development".
"This is a disgusting and reprehensible attack on a man and his family, which should be condemned in the strongest possible terms," he said.
"It also represents a direct attack on freedom of the press and freedom of expression. Every newspaper and every news media outlet should stand squarely behind Mark Pearce and show solidarity with him."
Mr Connolly, who is also managing editor of the Belfast Telegraph, added: "This horrific incident underlines the grave threats that continue to be faced by photographers and journalists working in Northern Ireland.
"Last year a photographer was shot in the leg by rioters, and earlier this month another photographer sustained head injuries alleged to have been caused by a blow from a police baton. During the summer a reporter was the victim of a threat from a loyalist paramilitary figure.
"I would urge everyone - including police, judiciary and political representatives - to take note of these very real dangers."
Police have appealed for information about the attack.