UDA denies threat against journalist (UTV)

A loyalist paramilitary grouping has denied being behind a death threat against a Belfast-based journalist, after the National Union of Journalists claimed a warning had been issued by the UDA.

While the NUJ said it was not releasing the journalist’s name, Irish Secretary Seamus Dooley confirmed that the PSNI was taking the threat seriously.

But in a statement released on Monday afternoon, the UDA said: “The Ulster Defence Association categorically denies any threats inferred or otherwise directed towards the journalist.

“The Ulster Defence Association respects the freedom of the press and the right of all journalists to carry out and pursue their profession free from intimidation or threat.”

Another UPRG spokesman, Frankie Gallagher, added: “We are committed to a peaceful future and a democracy in which the freedom of the press is essential.”

The journalist has been singled out in graffiti daubed on a wall in the city.

The PSNI would not comment on security issues of any individuals but said they would inform anyone that was deemed to be at risk and would act accordingly.

Mr Dooley said the threat was the latest aimed at the journalist in question and that it was “part of a sinister campaign” which the NUJ condemned.

“A free press is the cornerstone of a democratic society and peace cannot be said to exist when journalists are faced with death threats,” he added.

NUJ vice-president Barry McCall pointed to the murder of Sunday World journalist Martin O’Hagan more than ten years ago and said it had been hoped such threats were now resigned to the past.

“Unfortunately they are not,” he said.

“But one message we would like to send is that journalists won’t be intimidated by these threats.

“That’s one thing that’s always characterised journalism in Northern Ireland – that all journalists in Northern Ireland have a proud heritage and tradition of standing up to these threats.”

Ulster Unionist party leader Mike Nesbitt, a former journalist, had called on the UDA to confirm if it had sanctioned the threat.

“Threatening murder offers no vision for the future,” he said.

“No one is above public scrutiny and when anyone believes that media reporting becomes inaccurate, misleading or distorted, there are mechanisms in place to seek redress.”

Amnesty International also condemned the threat against the journalist.

“All over the world, journalists are arrested, threatened and killed for working in the frontline of defending freedom of expression,” Patrick Corrigan from the organisation in Northern Ireland said.

“Such threats are not merely an attack on one journalist, they are an attack on the freedom of the press in Northern Ireland.”


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