The Society of Editors has added its voice to those condemning the threats made to journalists working on titles in Northern Ireland.
Journalists at the Sunday Life in Belfast as well as the Sunday World – both owned by Independent News Media (INM) – have been warned of “imminent attacks” against them. One threat is believed to include the placing of a bomb beneath a car.
The threats were reported to journalists by police over the weekend and are understood to have been made by the breakaway South East Antrim UDA.
Although no information has been released for the motives behind the threats, Sunday Life and Sunday World have been carrying reports for some time on the criminal activities of gangs, including extortion, drugs and murder. The Police Service of Northern Ireland (PSNI) and the National Crime Agency (NCA) have recently been targeting the assets of gang members under the Proceeds of Crime Act and this is set to expand to unexplained wealth orders later this year.
A number of reporters were visited at their homes by police officers in the early hours of Friday morning with warnings of imminent attacks. Politicians in the province who have since condemned the threats have in their turn also been threatened, it has been reported.
INM publisher Peter Vandermeersch, issued a statement condemning the actions.
“We will, of course, work with the police to ensure our staff’s safety. Threats against journalists should not be tolerated in any free society.
“It is depressing that thugs still believe they can silence the press through intimidation. The Sunday World and Sunday Life will continue to publish stories that shed light in dark corners.”
“The threat comes in the week in which we celebrate World Press Freedom day and it is a stark reminder of the intimidation that workers throughout the world face from those who fear the consequences of journalism.”
Ian Murray, executive director of the Society of Editors, said the threats were a reminder of the way in which journalists place themselves in the frontline when it comes to serving their communities.
“The Society forcefully condemns these threats towards journalists who are only doing their jobs.
“It is a sobering reminder of how journalists, particularly in Northern Ireland, are essential in ensuring freedom of speech and maintaining a free democracy and we urge the authorities to do all they can to ensure those behind these actions are brought to justice.”