Federation of journalists (IFJ) says that forcing a journalist to reveal her
sources in Northern Ireland will put
her life at risk and weaken the fragile peace and democracy in the region.
At a hearing yesterday
in Belfast, the
Police Service of Northern Ireland
(PSNI) sought to enforce an order that Suzanne Breen, a journalist of the
Sunday Tribune, should provide materials over articles concerning the murder of
two British soldiers in the province. The case, says the IFJ, highlights the
threats to press freedom and the safety of journalists forced to hand over
materials that will reveal their sources.
of sources is of the essence for independent journalism," said Aidan White, IFJ General Secretary. "In this case
the journalist is at physical risk of reprisals from paramilitary groups if she
hands over information and the right of people to be informed will be
compromised in Northern Ireland
if sources of information dry up."
The IFJ says that
the Breen case demonstrates unequivocally that ruthless groups are prone to
exert retaliation against journalists for briefing authorities on them.
reports, journalists who testified at the hearing told the court that
journalists must not discriminate against their sources at the risk of scaring
off future sources of information. The court also heard witness evidence
of previous incidents of violence against journalists and media organisations
as a result of their cooperation with the Police in their inquiries.
Suzanne Breen was
contacted by the Real IRA, a dissident group of the IRA which claimed
responsibility for the murder of the soldiers in March. She subsequently
interviewed the group's representative whose identity the PSNI is asking her to
reveal. The journalist told the court she had received threats in case she
complied with the authorities' request.
The IFJ and its
European group, the European Federations of Journalists (EFJ) led the campaign
for the review of anti-terrorism laws in European countries which threaten the
protection of journalists' sources. The issue was raised by the EFJ at the
meeting of ministers of the human rights network of the Council of Europe
in Reykjavik, Iceland,
at the end of May which called on their
government to review anti-terrorism laws enacted after the attacks of 11
September in New York and Washington.
"These laws do
more harm than good," added White. "They compromise the integrity in journalism
and expose journalists to serious risks."
For further information contact
IFJ on + 32 2 235 22 07
The IFJ represents over 600,000 journalists in 123