Threats on reporters' lives ‘pernicious,’ INM editor says

Stephen Rae says scenario not unlike that when journalist Veronica Guerin killed in 1996

Garda officers at the scene of the shooting of Eddie Hutch  on Poplar Row in Dublin’s  North Strand. Two journalists at Independent News & Media hwho have been reporting on recent gang violence have had threats made on their lives, the group’s editor-in-chief said. Photograph: Brian Lawless/PA Wire.

Garda officers at the scene of the shooting of Eddie Hutch on Poplar Row in Dublin’s North Strand. Two journalists at Independent News & Media hwho have been reporting on recent gang violence have had threats made on their lives, the group’s editor-in-chief said. Photograph: Brian Lawless/PA Wire.

 

A newspaper editor has said it is frightening to think that journalists are having threats made on their lives some 20 years after the murder of Veronica Guerin.

Independent News & Media (INM) editor-in-chief Stephen Rae was speaking after it emerged that two of the group’s journalists had been threatened by criminal gangs following the recent gangland violence in Dublin.

David Byrne and Eddie Hutch were killed in shootings at the Regency Hotel and Popular Row respectively in the last week.

Mr Rae said gardaí visited the group’s headquarters to warn a journalist of a security threat against them. Days later, gardaí said the threat had been increased and extended to another colleague.

“It is a pernicious threat and the very fact that gangland leaders would be making threats again reflects the seriousness of the situation. It is a very live threat,” he told Newstalk.

Mr Rae told RTÉ’s Morning Ireland the journalists were still writing articles from a secure location away from the office. “There is a pretty comprehensive security plan in place,” he said. “The support of other media organisations... has been really appreciated.”

Mr Rae said although the group had four journalists who took photographs and reported at the boxing weigh-in at the Regency Hotel last Friday, this was not the reason for the threats.

“The situation as it is now has nothing to do whatever with those photographs. Journalists are being threatened simply for reporting the details of the gangland feud,” he said.

Mr Rae referred to his former colleagues Martin O’Hagan, who was killed in 2001, and Veronica Guerin, who was murdered by a Dublin crime gang in June 1996.

“It’s frightening to think 20 years on we’re back to the same scenario that reporters being threatened for doing their jobs,” he said.

Taoiseach Enda Kenny said he “deplored and condemned” any threat to journalism, describing freedom of the press as “one of the pillars of a functioning democracy”.

The National Union of Journalists’ Irish secretary, Seamus Dooley, said the threats were “shocking”.