Northern Ireland unites against threats to journalists

20 May 2020

Seamus Dooley NUJ

The publishers of three Belfast-based newspapers and the National Union of Journalists (NUJ) have joined together to stand up for journalists and press freedom in Northern Ireland.


This initiative has attracted local and global endorsement, involving many prominent individuals and organisations.


The public statement will be published tomorrow (Wednesday 20 May) in the Belfast Telegraph, Irish News and News Letter and has been endorsed by political, trade union, industry, community and religious leaders.


The statement's signatories include the first minister Arlene Foster, the deputy first minster Michelle O’Neill and the majority of MLAs from the Northern Ireland Assembly.


Oliver Dowden, the UK’s secretary of state for digital, culture, media and sport; and Brandon Lewis, the secretary of state for Northern Ireland have both signed the statement.


The Northern Ireland Chamber of Commerce and Industry, the Institute of Directors, the NI Council for Voluntary Action, UK Trade Union Congress and the Irish Congress of Trade Unions have also offered their support.


International organisations such as the World Association of News Publishers, the International Federation of Journalists and the International Trade Union Confederation have also backed our calls.


This unprecedented joint initiative aims to highlight and challenge the increasing number of threats of violence inflicted on the media.


Under the banner "Stand Up for Journalism" the public statement strongly asserts the right of journalists to work without threats, intimidation or harassment.


Séamus Dooley, NUJ assistant general secretary, said: "In the past the trade union movement took to the streets in protest against the threats to workers. In the difficult circumstances in which we find ourselves today, we rely on newspapers to highlight the threats to journalists. By working with the publishers and our members affected, we have been able to secure the support of a cross-section of society in Northern Ireland. We warmly welcome the strong stand taken by political and community leaders and look forward to a renewed drive to ensure journalists can safely carry out their work on behalf of the public."


Martin Breen, Sunday Life editor, said: "Enough is enough. Some 26 years after the ceasefires terrorist organisations from both the loyalist and republican side are continuing to threaten journalists on an ongoing basis because we have been exposing their dirty deeds and criminal empires. We all have to stand up against these vile threats as their sole aim is to silence investigative journalism and curtail the public's right to know about those gangsters operating in their communities across Northern Ireland. We hold everyone to account and will continue to expose criminality and all wrongdoing no matter where it originates."


Brian Farrell, Sunday World editor, said: "The recent threats issued to our journalists only serves to highlight the risk and importance of exposing the criminal menace that plagues our society. We will not be silenced nor intimidated and will not rest until those responsible are brought to justice."


Noel Doran, Irish News editor, said: "The increase in the number of serious threats against Belfast-based journalists is a deeply alarming development, so the significant level of support behind today's initiative is heartening. It sends out a strong message that all the attempts at intimidation will have no effect on our coverage, that the perpetrators need to be robustly pursued by the authorities and that civil society is firmly behind freedom of the press."