Belfast Telegraph

PSNI chief Hamilton slams UDA over threat to journalist

By Mark Bain

PSNI Chief Constable George Hamilton has pointed the finger of blame for the death threat hanging over a journalist at the north Down branch of the UDA.

The threat last Monday was said to have been issued because of the Belfast-based journalist's reporting on criminal activity associated with the terror group

Speaking on the BBC Stephen Nolan Show yesterday, the Chief Constable said: "There is a paramilitary cloak wrapped around organised crime.

"East Belfast UVF, for example, is pretty much just a mid-range organised crime gang that is wreaking havoc on communities, fear on communities in terms of the criminality they're involved in.

"There are other areas as well, on the UDA side, they're struggling clearly too with north Down UDA and we've seen that in recent weeks - threats issued against journalists and so on.

"So there's a pretty broad spectrum, from some groups and areas that are actually pretty inactive or certainly not engaged in that type of criminality.

"We have people at that end of the spectrum right through to organised crime and people carrying out so-called punishment shootings and punishment beatings and it's not acceptable and we're going to pursue them."

He added that the places most impacted by paramilitaries were socially deprived, working-class loyalist areas.

"The last thing they need is the fear and coercion that paramilitary groups bring," he said.

"In the last year we have searched nearly 200 premises of paramilitary organisations. We've arrested 47 of these people, we've charged 44 of them, that's a pretty good arrest-to-charge ratio.

"We're going after them."

The National Union of Journalists reiterated its call that reporters must be allowed to work "without fear of intimidation or threat of violence".

"We understand this is a credible threat of violence, confirmed by the PSNI, and are therefore concerned for the safety of the journalist and those close to him," said Seamus Dooley, the Irish secretary of the NUJ.

"We urge those in positions of influence within the UDA to use their good offices to have the threat withdrawn.

"The NUJ has offered support and assistance to the journalist and will always support members placed under threat."

Mr Dooley added: "Respect for divergent views and challenging journalism is the hallmark of a democratic society and there is no place for this type of intimidation."

Belfast Telegraph

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