Belfast Telegraph

Video: Belfast paedophile hunter group's rant at BBC NI man Magee 'attack on media freedom'

By Rebecca Black

An expletive-ridden rant at a senior BBC journalist in Belfast city centre has been condemned as an "attack on media freedom".

Kevin Magee was confronted by a group of self-proclaimed paedophile hunters on Tuesday evening in a coffee shop, apparently angry after he attempted to interview one.

The group shot live video footage as they approached Mr Magee. One of the men was furious, apparently after Mr Magee had visited his home for an interview about the activities of groups that hunt sex offenders.

He asks Mr Magee during the scene that was videoed: "How does it feel to be confronted? You don't like this, Kevin, do you?"

A spokesperson for the group told BBC Radio Ulster's Nolan Show yesterday that they believed Mr Magee was in breach of the BBC code of conduct.

There is no suggestion that Mr Magee had done anything wrong.

The PSNI is reviewing footage of the incident to establish whether any offences were committed.

The video remained online last night and had been viewed more than 80,000 times.

Mr Magee has so far declined to comment on the matter.

Ian Murray, director of the Society of Editors, said every citizen had the right to question a journalist, but no one had the right to do so in such a manner.

"There is a world of difference between his approach as a professional journalist working for the BBC who had to follow strict guidelines, and what appears to be a small, determined vocal and aggressive mob who were harassing him in the street," Mr Murray said.

"It is beholden on journalists to ensure that all reports are balanced and attempting to put both sides of a story.

"If Kevin Magee was putting together a report on paedophile hunters in Northern Ireland, surely they would have been just as upset if he had not attempted to approach them to put their side of the story of what they were doing and why they were doing it?"

He added: "Everybody has the right to ask questions, and to question in the correct manner, any journalist about what they are doing, why they are there and refuse to speak to them if they wish, and ask them to desist. They have every right to do that.

"But the aggression used in this particular incident, the continued aggression having made their point, the foul language and abuse, and the threats that were there to him as he was attempting to walk away and defuse the situation is not acceptable in any form of life, let alone with a journalist going about their lawful business."

The National Union of Journalists has offered support to Mr Magee, and condemned the vigilante group's behaviour.

Seamus Dooley, NUJ Irish secretary, said: "BBC Northern Ireland journalist Kevin Magee is a journalist of the highest integrity. He was abused and intimidated while carrying out a legitimate news investigation in the public interest.

"No group is above the law and there is no place in a democratic society for vigilante groups, regardless of their motives. This attack is an attack on media freedom and must be condemned in the strongest manner."

Earlier this week it emerged police had given so-called paedophile hunter groups in Northern Ireland a checklist on what is needed in order to allow officers to bring a case to court.

However, stressing it is not an advisory for the groups to assist them in their actions, a senior police officer has told them to stop what they are doing and instead report what they know to the PSNI.

Belfast Telegraph

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