Amnesty highlights serious concerns about Suzanne Breen case to Woodward

Amnesty International has written to Shaun Woodward, Secretary of State for Northern Ireland, outlining the organisation’s serious concerns about the case of Suzanne Breen, Northern Editor for the Sunday Tribune. Ms Breen is facing a court order, issued under the Terrorism Act 2000, to hand over to the PSNI information she obtained as a journalist reporting on the Real IRA attack on Massereene Barracks in March 2009.

The letter, sent at the end of May, points out threats to Ms Breen’s right to a fair trial and highlights the very real possibility of the freedom of the press, and investigative journalism in particular, being put at risk.

Patrick Corrigan, Northern Ireland Programme Director of Amnesty International said: “There are real concerns here about possible violations of Suzanne Breen’s human rights. By using anti-terrorism legislation and the use of secret evidence, the Government has deprived her of the right to challenge the evidence used against her. That is an affront to natural justice and international human rights standards.

“On the few occasions when such secrecy might be justified, an independent party should make any decision to keep evidence confidential. That basic standard has not been met here and consequently Ms Breen’s right to a fair and public legal process is in serious jeopardy.

Colm O'Gorman, Executive Director of Amnesty International Ireland, said: “We have reminded the Secretary of State that freedom of the press is a vital part of the right to freedom of expression, guaranteed by international human rights law. The failure to defend the right of journalists to protect their sources undermines investigative journalism and the public interest.

“The UN has recommended that journalists should only be obliged to reveal sources in exceptional circumstances, where there is no other way to obtain the information, and where the public interest clearly over-rides the importance of protecting sources. It is doubtful that this test has been satisfied in this case.

“Simply put, journalists should not be used as an alternative to proper policing and intelligence gathering.”

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