Belfast Telegraph

Editor's Viewpoint: A conviction of Lyra McKee's killer would be strong signal that press freedom remains cornerstone of democracy

Lyra McKee
Lyra McKee

Editor's Viewpoint

Yesterday was World Press Freedom Day, and for the first time in almost 20 years a local journalist was prominent in our minds.

The death of Lyra McKee, who was murdered by the New IRA in Londonderry just over two weeks ago, was all the more shocking because only two journalists have been killed during more than four decades of the Troubles and also in the lingering but savage violence which still disfigures our society.

Sadly, other journalists have been shot, wounded and subjected to other forms of intimidation, despite the fact that it is widely accepted a free press is a vital component of democracy.

Lyra's untimely death is a stark reminder of the price that can be, and often is, paid by those journalists who seek to report on events and to uncover the truth in the public interest.

Freedom, including freedom of speech, is under attack across the globe as never before. The hostility to journalists shown by political leaders in many countries has incited increasingly serious acts of violence against news professionals.

According to the International Federation of Journalists (IFJ), at least 95 journalists were killed last year while carrying out their work. The hallmark of many of these crimes is what press freedom campaigners describe as "the concept of impunity" whereby people who want to attack the press are emboldened by the authorities to countenance such behaviour.

This is characteristic of both the developed world and elsewhere. All of which is why it is vital that the PSNI investigation of Lyra McKee is robust and ongoing.

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Of course, the detectives here have to face challenges peculiar to Northern Ireland, and while it is regrettable that the police have to take such a step, it is nevertheless welcome to see them offer anonymity to anyone who could assist them with bringing her killers to justice.

Without doubt, a successful conviction for Lyra's murder would be one of the strongest signals that press freedom remains a cornerstone of democracy in these islands.

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