Belfast Telegraph

Union hits out at growing threats against reporters

Patricia Irvine, chair of the United Nations Association NI, speaking at World Press Freedom Day in Belfast
Patricia Irvine, chair of the United Nations Association NI, speaking at World Press Freedom Day in Belfast

By Staff Reporter

The Irish Secretary of the National Union of Journalists (NUJ) yesterday described Northern Ireland as "an inhospitable place for journalists".

Speaking in Belfast on Unesco World Press Freedom Day, NUJ official Seamus Dooley warned of increasing threats to both the freedom of the press and freedom of expression.

At least 95 journalists were killed last year while at work, according to the International Federation of Journalists (IFJ).

Mr Dooley said that the unsolved murder of Sunday World journalist Martin O'Hagan in 2001 was "a stain on the history of policing in Northern Ireland".

Turning to the murder of Lyra McKee, Mr Dooley said: "Unlike Martin's murder, Lyra was not the target of a deliberate and premeditated act of violence against a journalist.

"But Lyra was killed in the course of her work, the important work of witnessing news on the streets of Creggan."

He also criticised the arrest of journalists Trevor Birney and Barry McCaffrey over their investigation into the Loughinisland bar murders.

"The treatment of Trevor and Barry illustrates in microcosm the difficulties faced by those who seek the truth," he said. "On a regular basis we get reports of threats to journalists from both sides of the political divide. The threats are vicious and vile and increasingly directed at women and misogynistic in nature.

"Today we must assert the right of journalists to do our job, not just in Northern Ireland but across the globe."

In London, the Society of Editors has called on all politicians in the UK to give their support to the media.

Ian Murray, executive director of the society, said: "All too often strong words in support of a free media are quickly forgotten when new laws on being considered to constrain what the public has a right to know."

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