Journalist Leona O’Neill, a freelance journalist and columnist for the Belfast Telegraph, posted a picture on Twitter on 4 February showing graffiti accusing her of being an informant for MI5, the security services in Nothern Ireland.
According to reports, the threats appeared after O’Neill reported that a republican flute band with ties political group Saoradh, had taken part in Bloody Sunday commemorations in the city last weekend. Saoradh is a political party affiliated with the New IRA – a merger of groups opposing the peace process in Northern Ireland.
Leona O’Neill had previously endured an avalanche of threats after she revealed that she witnessed the killing of her friend and fellow journalist Lyra McKee, in April last year. The day after McKee’s murder, O’Neill faced an online hate campaign, accusing her of fabricating her account of the killing and even being responsible for it.
A joint statement by Michelle Stanistreet, general secretary of the NUJ, and Seamus Dooley, assistant general secretary, said: “We strongly condemn this vile and dangerous threat. It is a clear attempt to intimidate a hard working, committed journalist. Leona has proven herself to be a journalist of resilience with a strong passion for Derry. We would call on civic and community leaders to support journalists and to defend media freedom.”
IFJ General Secretary Anthony Bellanger, said: “We fully stand by our colleague Leona O’Neill, who continues to receive threats from those who accuse her of taking sides in the conflict. We call on the authorities to find those responsible for the threats and to protect all journalists and media workers.”
In November 2019, the IFJ launched new guidelines to support media and unions in providing a collective answer to online trolling. The guidelines are a part of an IFJ campaign “Online trolling: You are not alone!”, launched on the International Day to End Violence Against Women and Girls.