Targeted journalists resist bail censorship

journosbail2.jpg

Two Belfast-based journalists arrested after investigating collusion in the North have complained that the PSNI tried to censor them over what they can say about it.

Lawyers for Trevor Birney and Barry McCaffrey sought to have the case dropped, but they were instead questioned for three hours. They have been accused of “stealing” confidential information relating to collusion from the Office of the Police Ombudsman, which had been provided anonymously to them. They have been on police bail since last year.

“They tried to impose two conditions on us: one that we were not to talk publicly about the case and, two, that we were not to approach witnesses,” said Mr Birney.

“After our legal team raised concern they dropped condition one but they stuck to condition two,” he said, adding that they had no interest in approaching witnesses “given that one of them is the chief suspect”.

The two journalists were arrested last August, when their homes and offices were searched, following the broadcast of their documentary about the Loughinisland killings, No Stone Unturned.

The film investigated the killings of six men in the Heights Bar in Loughinisland, County Down, as they watched a World Cup game between the Republic of Ireland and Italy, and the police collusion that took place.

The High Court heard this week that the PSNI are attempting to “keep a lid” on material connected to the Loughinisland massacre after it emerged the PSNI were censoring sections of documents which feature in the journalists’ case as part of efforts to preserve secrecy.

Mr Birney queried why police were persisting with the case. “It is all rather strange and weird; it is trying to bolt the door after the horse has bolted.”

On the condition about not approaching witnesses, Mr Birney said: “There are no witnesses to a theft because there was no theft. We have not stolen anything and we are not guilty of stealing anything.”

In May the Belfast High Court is due to hear a challenge from Mr Birney and Mr McCaffrey about the legality of search warrants issued during the investigation.

The National Union of Journalists assistant general secretary Séamus Dooley said Mr Birney and Mr McCaffrey were “being punished because they have exposed brutal human rights abuses”.

Calling for “legal threats, harassment and intimidation” to stop, he said: “A free press is critical to the health of democracy and freedom of expression is a fundamental human right.”

Amnesty’s Patrick Corrigan said the arrests of the two widely respected journalists Ireland “has sent a shiver of fear through the region”.

“When police are arresting journalists who have investigated police collusion in the killing of civilians, rather than the killers and those who helped them get away with murder, people everywhere should be worried,” he said.

 

* In an unrelated development, Saoradh executive member Alan Lundy has been released on police bail under highly restrictive conditions following his controversial arrest last week.

We have a favour to ask

We want to keep our publication as available as we can, so we need to ask for your help. Irish Republican News takes time, money and hard work to produce. But we do it because we believe it makes a difference. If everyone who reads our website helps fund it, our future would be much more secure.

For as little as £1, you can support Irish Republican News – and it only takes a minute. Thank you.

© 2019 Irish Republican News