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'Deeply alarming': NI leaders condemn dissident threats against Belfast journalists

The letter was published in the Belfast Telegraph, Irish News and News Letter newspapers yesterday.

Image: Niall Carson/PA Images

THE NORTH’S FIRST Minister and Deputy First Minister have joined newspaper editors and union leaders in condemning a number of recent threats against journalists in the region.

In an open letter, DUP leader Arlene Foster and Sinn Féin’s deputy leader Michelle O’Neill hit out at paramilitary groups for targeting journalists and called for the freedom of the press to be respected.

The letter was published in the Belfast Telegraph, Irish News and News Letter newspapers yesterday.

In April, a journalist working for the Belfast-based Irish News was warned by the Police Service of Northern Ireland (PSNI) about a threat against them.

Earlier this month, loyalist terrorists issued threats against journalists working for the Sunday World and Sunday Life. 

At least one journalist was told of a planned under-car booby trap attack and the warnings also said journalists at the two titles – both owned by Independent News and Media (INM) – were at risk of attack.

In her statement, Arlene Foster noted that previous generations had put their lives on the line to protect free speech, saying this was something that must be defended.

“The recent paramilitary threats targeting journalists and politicians represent an assault upon our society and upon democracy. This cannot be tolerated,” she said.

Her comments were echoed by Michelle O’Neil, who said the North’s representatives stand with journalists and would do all they could to support them in doing their jobs without fear.

“Journalism is a bedrock of democracy and those who are keeping our communities informed and holding the powerful to account must not be intimidated or threatened as they carry out their work,” she said.

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The letter was also signed by the editors of the Sunday Life, Sunday World, and Irish News, as well as the UK’s minister for media and data, the Irish Congress of Trade Unions’ assistant general secretary, and the assistant general secretary of the National Union of Journalists.

Irish News editor Noel Doran said the increase in threats was “a deeply alarming development” but welcomed the support shown by those who signed the letter.

Sunday Life editor Martin Breen said the newspaper would continue to hold everyone to account and “expose criminality and all wrongdoing no matter where it originates”.

Sunday World editor Brian Farrell said that the newspaper would “not be silenced nor intimidated” and would not rest until those responsible were brought to justice.

in an open letter

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