Northern Ireland news

PSNI chief constable gives Loughisland journalists 'unreserved apology' during Zoom call

Investigative journalists Barry McCaffrey and Trevor Birney received an unreserved apology in a Zoom call with the chief constable

THE PSNI chief constable has apologised in a face-to-face meeting to two journalists arrested over material that appeared in a documentary on a Troubles massacre.

Over a "constructive" Zoom meeting, Simon Byrne repeated the "unreserved apology" he gave in writing to investigative journalists Barry McCaffrey and Trevor Birney last July after the Court of Appeal quashed a search warrant used to raid their homes and offices in August 2018.

They were detained over the alleged theft of a police watchdog document which appeared in their film `No Stone Unturned', based on a notorious loyalist massacre in Loughinisland in 1994.

Mr McCaffrey and Mr Birney worked with Oscar-winning director, Alex Gibney on the film which focused on how the RUC handled the UVF murders of six Catholic men at a pub in the Co Down village.

A PSNI spokesperson told the investigative news website The Detail the meeting had been "constructive", saying "the chief constable reiterated his unreserved apology for the distress and upset caused to both men and their families as a result of their arrest".

The journalists said they recognised their arrests happened before to his appointment.

They also raised recent death threats against reporters working on Northern Ireland titles including Allison Morris, Patricia Devlin and others.

"Even if journalists are pursuing stories that police could view as uncomfortable, they should be respected for their vital role in a democratic society," Mr Birney told The Detail.

Mr McCaffrey said the PSNI "chose to arrest journalists for simply exposing the truth" in a "disastrous and unforgivable decision which caused untold hurt and pain to the victims' families".

"Attacking the media and threatening press freedom is not good policing."

Amnesty International and the National Union of Journalists have called on the Policing Board to investigate the full circumstances behind their arrest.

The Detail reported an investigation into the leaking of the documents has ceased.

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