Belfast Telegraph

UDA threatens Belfast-based journalist

The National Union of Journalists (NUJ) have said that the UDA have issued a threat against a Belfast-based journalist over their coverage of the organisation.

The journalist is thought to have reported on criminal activity involving the group.

The person who received the threat wishes to remain anonymous.

Sunday World journalist Martin O’Hagan was shot dead in September 2001 by the loyalist paramilitary group, the Loyalist Volunteer Force.

Seamus Dooley, the Irish secretary of the NUJ told the BBC that PSNI confirmed the threat was credible.

"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," he said.

"We urge those in positions of influence within the UDA to use their good offices to have the threat withdrawn.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 under threat and will always support members placed under threat."

"Respect for divergent views and challenging journalism is the hallmark of a democratic society and there is no place in our society for this type of intimidation, from any quarter."

Sinn Fein leader Michelle O'Neill called for politicians to come together and support the journalist.

"I condemn outright the UDA threat against a local journalist," she said.

"This threat should be lifted immediately and all political leaders should show support for this journalist.

"There is no place for UDA or any paramilitary group in our society. Needs to be challenged head on."

UUP leader Robin Swann said a free press was a key part of democracy.

"(This is) completely unacceptable, in a society that values the freedom of the press," he said.

"Four hostile newspapers are more to be feared than a thousand bayonets."

Nobody should feel intimidated as a result of the work they do. DUP MP Gavin Robinson

East Belfast MP Gavin Robinson said anyone with information on the threat should contact the PSNI.

“Paramilitary activity and threats of this nature have absolutely no place in our society. To seek to cause fear is something that should belong to Northern Ireland’s past," the DUP man said.

"Society upholds Freedom of the Press. Nobody should feel intimidated as a result of the work they do.

"Anyone involved in illegal activity must face the full weight of the law. People with information must bring that forward to the PSNI."

Human rights organisation Amnesty International called for the threat to be lifted immediately.

Patrick Corrigan, Amnesty International’s Northern Ireland Programme Director, said the threat was an attack on the freedom of the press.

“Amnesty International condemns this reported death threat against a journalist and calls for the threat to be lifted immediately. Such threats are not merely an attack on one journalist, they are an attack on the freedom of the press in Northern Ireland.

“All over the world, journalists are arrested, threatened and killed for working in the frontline of defending freedom of expression.

“Guaranteeing freedom of expression must be a cornerstone of Northern Ireland as a peaceful and just society.”

A PSNI spokesperson said that police take every threat seriously.

"We do not discuss the security of individuals and no inference should be drawn from this," the spokesperson said.

"However, if we receive information that a person’s life may be at risk we will inform them accordingly.

"We never ignore anything which may put an individual at risk."

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