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‘Despicable’ journalist intimidation in Northern Ireland continues

Posted on: February 23, 2021 by Mariella Brown

A second journalist has been targeted with threatening graffiti in Northern Ireland after a fellow female reporter received a similar attack.

The Irish News’ security correspondent, Allison Morris, has seen her name painted on a wall next to the crosshair of a gun which also accused her of being an “MI5 Agent”.

Morris has previously been the target of paramilitary death threats.

Morris’s editor, Noel Doran of the Belfast-based News, said: “We condemn the attempt to intimidate our colleague Allison Morris which will not succeed, and we stand with Allison and all other journalists who have faced similarly despicable threats.”

SDLP MLA Matthew O’Toole, chair of the all-party group on press freedom, said the repeated and normalised threats – especially against female reporters – were “utterly unacceptable in any democracy”.

The SoE reported last week how Patricia Devlin, a Sunday World reporter had also been targeted with “menacing and cowardly” graffiti, which features the crosshair of a gun next to her name.

Devlin gave evidence to the newly-formed Stormont press freedom parliamentary group to outline the threats she has received from a variety of criminal and paramilitary linked sources, and the ongoing trauma it has caused her and her family.  

The NI All-Party Group on Press Freedom and Media Sustainability has since requested to meet with PSNI Chief Constable Simon Byrne to investigate how the police is responding to the proliferation of harassment and threats against journalists.

Commenting on the engagement with the PSNI, Matthew O’Toole MLA said: “A strong deterrent to this type of intimidation must exist and be consistently implemented.  Both politicians and the police service here have an important role to play in ensuring that freedom of the press is protected and that everyone feels safe to do their job in our society.”

Vice-Chair of the Stormont APG, Ulster Unionist Mike Nesbitt MLA, added: “As someone who had a handgun flashed in his face before a live outside broadcast, I understand how deeply intimidating these threats can be.”

Nesbitt, along with Allison Morris, contributed to the Society of Editors’ Virtual Conference in December which highlighted the unique paramilitary threats faced by the media in Northern Ireland.