NUJ holds protests over threats to reporters in Northern Ireland

Intimidation, harassment and online abuse must not be normalised, says union chief

Kathy Johnson, equality officer of NUJ Belfast & District Branch, with Brian Pelan, secretary of NUJ Belfast & District Branch, Anton McCabe, NUJ NEC job-share, and Robin Wilson, chair of NUJ Belfast & District Branch, at a protest in Belfast in support of threatened NUJ colleagues. Photograph: Kevin Cooper, Photoline

Kathy Johnson, equality officer of NUJ Belfast & District Branch, with Brian Pelan, secretary of NUJ Belfast & District Branch, Anton McCabe, NUJ NEC job-share, and Robin Wilson, chair of NUJ Belfast & District Branch, at a protest in Belfast in support of threatened NUJ colleagues. Photograph: Kevin Cooper, Photoline

 

The National Union of Journalists (NUJ) staged socially distanced protests in Belfast and Derry on Monday in support of reporters who recently came under paramilitary threat.

Members of the NUJ held a lunchtime demonstration at Writer’s Square in the Cathedral Quarter of central Belfast before walking together to the steps of St Anne’s Cathedral, where they stood for a minute’s silence in memory of murdered colleagues, Lyra McKee and Martin O’Hagan.

At the same time, members of the NUJ in Derry and the north-west mounted a similar protest at the Guildhall in Derry. Due to the Covid-19 restrictions much of the journalistic protest and commentary took place online.

They were also protesting over threats made against Northern Ireland journalists this year. These included Ulster Defence Association (UDA) threats against two journalists working for the Sunday World in Belfast and a loyalist paramilitary threat against a journalist working for the Belfast Telegraph and Sunday Life newspapers.

They also cited the threats against Sunday World journalist Patricia Devlin. In October she lodged a complaint to the North’s Police Ombudsman Marie Anderson over an alleged PSNI failure to investigate a threat to rape her baby son.

In September this year the NUJ accused the British and Irish governments of turning a blind eye to the failure of the PSNI to secure a conviction for the murder of Sunday World journalist and NUJ member Martin O’Hagan. He was shot by the Loyalist Volunteer Force in Lurgan, Co Armagh in September 2001.

Lyra McKee was murdered by the New IRA in Derry in April last year.

The Irish secretary of the NUJ Seamus Dooley said journalists must publicly stand with those under threat. “Threats are occurring nearly every week in Northern Ireland. Women journalists in particular are being targeted with vile and misogynist abuse,” he said.

“Threats should never be accepted as part of the job of a journalist or any other worker. Intimidation, harassment and online abuse should not be normalised,” he added.