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Loyalists' threat against Belfast Telegraph and Sunday Life journalist condemned

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A threat has been issued against a Belfast Telegraph and Sunday Life journalist.

A threat has been issued against a Belfast Telegraph and Sunday Life journalist.

Kevin Scott / Belfast Telegraph

A threat has been issued against a Belfast Telegraph and Sunday Life journalist.

Loyalist terrorists in Northern Ireland have issued a threat against a journalist working for the Belfast Telegraph and Sunday Life.

The breakaway South East Antrim UDA, which was behind a spate of similar threats earlier this year, is being linked to this latest intimidation.

The PSNI is taking the threat seriously and officers advised the journalist that "loyalist paramilitaries may intend carrying out an attack".

Earlier this year, all journalists from the Sunday Life and Sunday World newspapers also received threats, believed to be from the same UDA gang whose members have been blamed for the murder of Carrickfergus man Glenn Quinn – a terminally ill 47-year-old who was beaten to death in his home in January.

Politicians who condemned those threats, including UUP leader Steve Aiken, his party colleague Doug Beattie MLA, Sinn Fein MLA Linda Dillon, SDLP MLA Patsy McGlone and Alliance MP Stephen Farry were themselves later warned by police they too were under threat from loyalists.

Politicians from all of Northern Ireland's main political parties, trade union leaders and church officials then all signed up to a campaign condemning the loyalist paramilitary death threats.

The Stand Up for Journalism campaign won global support, with editors from around the world offering their backing.

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Condemning the latest threat, Eoin Brannigan, Editor-in-Chief of the Belfast Telegraph and the Sunday Life, said: “This is the second time this year we’ve had our journalists threatened in this manner. It is outrageous that thugs are once again trying to silence a journalist doing their job. We are reassured that the PSNI is taking this threat very seriously.”

The National Union of Journalists also strongly condemned it and said it will not deter journalists in Northern Ireland from their work.

Séamus Dooley, Assistant General Secretary said: “We unreservedly condemn this latest threat, which we understand comes from a loyalist terrorist group. Yet again a journalist is faced with threats simply for doing their job.

"Earlier this year the NUJ, media organisations, political parties, trade union groups and a cross section of business and community groups united in support of reporters under threat from so called paramilitary groups.

"Our clear message today is the same as then: Threats and intimidation have no place in Northern Ireland and journalists will not buckle in the face of these tactics.”

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MLA Doug Beattie

MLA Doug Beattie

MLA Doug Beattie

Mr Beattie said the threat was an attempt to take the spotlight off the criminal activity of loyalist paramilitary groups.

"Who do they think they are and what status do these thugs think they have? They are a stain on our society and a burden on law abiding citizens who want to get on with their lives in difficult times," the UUP MLA said.

“I, as an elected representative, will not stop highlighting their organised crime activities, their drug dealing, extortion, intimidation and counterfeit goods networks. I will speak up against them every chance I get.

“We as a society have a choice. We either stand up to the bullies or we allow ourselves to be bullied. To rid these self-interested, money grabbing criminals from our society we must stand together and I stand with the Belfast Telegraph journalist who has been threatened.”

Amnesty International Northern Ireland's Patrick Corrigan called for the threat to be lifted immediately.

"Such threats are a disgusting attempt to intimidate journalists from doing their jobs and constitute an attack on freedom of the press in Northern Ireland. We send our solidarity to the journalist concerned," he said.

“We have seen a sustained pattern of despicable threats against journalists from both loyalist and republican paramilitaries in recent years. For too long, such groups have been able to make such threats against the media in Northern Ireland with apparent impunity. That must end. We look to the authorities to hold those responsible to account.”

Last month in the Assembly Justice Minister Naomi Long said she is fully committed to tackling threats made to journalists.

She spoke as it emerged a senior PSNI officer is involved in drawing up a national action plan to help protect journalists under threat.

Chief superintendent Sam Donaldson is taking part in devising a draft strategy for a special UK committee set up by the UK Government.

The National Committee for the Safety of Journalists was established in the aftermath of the killing of journalist Lyra McKee in Londonderry by the New IRA in April 2019.

Justice Minister Naomi Long said the committee "has only been in existence for a short while, and work is ongoing to better understand the scale and depth of such threats across the UK. More long term work is being undertaken to develop a protocol as to how police services will deal with such threats in the future, in an effort to bring consistency of approach."


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