Northern Ireland news

Dissident threat against Irish News journalist condemned

The Irish News building at Donegall Street in Belfast city centre
Brendan Hughes

A PARAMILITARY threat against a journalist with The Irish News has received international condemnation.

Police are understood to have visited the journalist to warn of a dissident republican plot to attack them in their own home.

The threat has been roundly condemned since it was reported in yesterday's paper.

Séamus Dooley, assistant general secretary of the National Union of Journalists (NUJ), called for the "vicious" threat to be lifted immediately.

He said threats against journalists at any time are "disgraceful", but expressed shock that it arises during the Covid-19 pandemic when healthcare staff are "trying to save lives and help the vulnerable".

The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ), which represents more than 600,000 journalists in 146 countries, also strongly condemned the threat.

General secretary Anthony Bellanger said: "We support the NUJ call for the immediate and unconditional lifting of this threat.

"Journalists must be free to operate without fear of threat or any form of intimidation.

"This is an unacceptable attempt to silence journalists for doing their job. It has not worked in the past and will not succeed on this occasion."

Amnesty International's Patrick Corrigan branded the threat an "attack on the freedom of the press in Northern Ireland".

Stormont justice minister Naomi Long described it as "despicable" and urged anyone with information to contact police.

"This appalling threat places additional pressures on the journalist, their family and on the police, when they are already dealing with the Covid-19 pandemic and all of the challenges that brings with it," she said.

SDLP leader Colum Eastwood said: "Those who seek to intimidate or harm journalists have nothing to offer our society. The threat against this journalist must be lifted immediately."

Sinn Féin MLA Gerry Kelly, a member of the Policing Board, said it "follows a recent spate of despicable threats against journalists and elected representatives".

"Freedom of the press is a key cornerstone of any democratic society and the staff at this paper, like all workers, must be able to do their work free from intimidation or harassment," he said.

Irish News editor Noel Doran said all attempts to intimidate journalists were repugnant.

"After discussing the case with a senior officer, I am satisfied that it is being treated very seriously by police. Our staff will not be deterred from carrying out their duties at any stage and I would call on those behind this threat to withdraw it without delay," he said.

The PSNI said it does not discuss the security of individuals, adding "no inference should be drawn from this".

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

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