World Press Freedom Day: Journalists remain at risk for uncovering human rights abuses

Journalists Barry McCaffrey and Trevor Birney face further police questioning.

On World Press Freedom Day, Amnesty International UK are calling for increased protection for journalists working to uncover human rights abuses in the UK.

Kate Allen, Director of Amnesty International UK, said:

“Globally, journalists and media outlets are under increasing attack for their essential work. Concerted international effort is needed to ensure the safety of media workers, and we need to see those who harass or attack them brought to justice.

“Amnesty International still has serious concerns about journalists being targeted for their work uncovering human rights abuses.

“The sinister arrest of journalists Trevor Birney and Barry McCaffrey – facing the prospect of serious charges simply for their vital work in uncovering police collusion in the Loughinisland massacre in Northern Ireland – leaves us in no doubt that press freedom in the UK, and around the world, remains at serious risk.”

On Saturday, Amnesty International and Queen’s Film Theatre will host an event in Belfast to mark World Press Freedom Day, dedicated to murdered journalist Lyra McKee.

Lyra McKee was due to speak on a panel discussion about the dangers facing journalists, but was killed while reporting on public disorder in Derry on April 18.

The event will now be in honour of Lyra, and will include a screening of ‘A Private War’, a film about war correspondents Marie Colvin and Paul Conroy.

Suzanne Breen, political editor of the Belfast Telegraph, will now join photojournalist Kevin Cooper and Amnesty International’s Patrick Corrigan for the panel.

Patrick Corrigan, Amnesty International’s Northern Ireland Programme Director of Amnesty International, said:

“Lyra’s death at the hands of paramilitaries is a reminder of the risks that reporters face every day around the world, including here in Northern Ireland. Press freedom is the cornerstone of a rights respecting society and we must guard it closely.”

Arrested and questioned

Trevor Birney and Barry McCaffrey were arrested on 31 August 2018 in connection with an alleged breach of the Official Secrets Act, relating to confidential documents about the police investigation of the murder of six men in a bar in the village of Loughinisland, County Down, in 1994.

A 2016 report from the Police Ombudsman for Northern Ireland found that there had been collusion between the Royal Ulster Constabulary and the Ulster Volunteer Force killers, and that the subsequent police investigation had been undermined by a desire to protect those responsible for the massacre.

The 2017 film, ‘No Stone Unturned’ – directed by Oscar-winning film-maker Alex Gibney – explored the unsolved killings and police investigation in detail, and named one of the alleged killers.

In August last year, it is estimated that up to 100 police officers from the Police Service of Northern Ireland and Durham Constabulary raided the journalists’ homes and offices, seizing documents and computers, which the men are fighting to have returned.

Amnesty International UK are currently campaigning on their behalf as they remain on bail awaiting further questioning.

 

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