RAIDS on the homes of press journalists may be challenged
in court if Belfast NUJ member and political commentator
Dr Anthony McIntyre sues after police raided his house
under the Terrorism Act, stripping him of his journalistic
this year police raided the home of Sunday Times Ireland
editor Liam Clarke and his wife after phone transcripts
involving Sinn Feins Martin McGuinness and a
key advisor for Tony Blair appeared in The Times.
They later publicly challenged Chief Constable Hugh
Orde over the raids. Nevertheless, files are being
prepared for the DPP on the Clarkes for leaking classified
prominent journalists have also been quizzed by police
about security sources; concern is growing about police
harassment of journalists conducting their
trend is in stark contrast to recent UK experience,
where neither Dr David Kelly nor BBCs Andrew
Gilligan faced armed police raids at night or armoured
police patrols outside their homes.
at increasing frequency of raids
McIntyres home was raided on July 4th after
he covered a republican prisoners protest at the Northern
Ireland Prison Service headquarters in Belfast, on
his web journal The Blanket.
authorities launched a probe claiming personnel files
of prison service staff were stolen by protestors
and given to dissident republican paramilitaries.
McIntyre denied involvement and slammed the raid as
political policing, censorship and suppression
of the media and just a trawl for my contacts and
notes on the protest made quite clear I was there
as and acted as a journalist and the police must have
been aware of that. He has also consistently
denounced dissident republican violence.
police still seized his pc, discs, digital camera,
electronic organizers, mobile phones and notebooks,
effectively shutting his popular website and restricting
his means to make a living. He also commentates for
the BBC, CNN and RTE, amongst others and is an Observer
NUJ backed his legal bid to have his property returned
and voiced extreme concern at the use
of anti-terror legislation for the raid, and asked
why police had not sought a Production Order, directing
Dr McIntyre to surrender his material.
backing for legal action
the surprise early return of his material on August
1st, Dr McIntyres solicitor Ted Jones confirmed
he is considering legal action, under Article 12 of
the European Convention on Human Rights guaranteeing
freedom of the media, and redress for being prevented
from earning a living.
discriminatory way Dr McIntyre was treated compared
to UTV and a Derry newspaper journalist during the
same probe is also being examined. Jones said: There
was a complete discrepancy between how the journalists
had argued McIntyres material and property was
excluded material, meaning journalistic
material as described in the Police and Criminal Evidence
Act, the Official Secrets Act and the Terrorism Act.
understood the NUJ will also back a new case.
Secretary Jeremy Dear pinpointed the insidious use
of terror or official secrets legislation: Were
delighted Anthony MacIntyre's material has been returned
and condemn the way the police acted throughout, which
was a blatant attack on the freedom of journalists
to carry out their lawful work free from harassment.
PSNI spokesman said: The police have been and
continue to liaise very closely with Mr McIntyres
solicitor on all aspects relating to the ongoing investigation.
As it is still ongoing it would be inappropriate to
comment any further.
the PSNI have caved in, Dr McIntyre was
more eloquent: The NUJ supported my action to
have my property returned because they acknowledged
I was a working journalist who had my equipment seized.
The case involved serious journalistic principles
which needed defending and it was worthy of their
PSNI tried to deal with me on the basis that I was
not a journalist, and tried to say ex-prisoners cant
be journalists. [Dr McIntyre is a former life-sentence
the Chief Constable saying he will decide who can
and who cant be a journalist? The NUJ have made
a very good decision in standing up to the authorities
is a major challenge by the PSNI to the autonomy of
journalists. If it is now going to accuse journalists
who cover protests of taking part in protests its
a serious attack on the profession. The PSNI is trying
to establish for itself the sole right to be the sole
gatherers of public information which constitutes
is a growing sense of a trend hampering journalists
investigations. A prominent human rights activist
accepts such fears seem justified, but would not comment
publicly. Dr McIntyre feels journalists should worry:
All journalists now know there is a willingness
to enact such orders, their houses can be raided at
any time, their material seized and contacts, sources
and numbers taken at any time.
letting us know they can intimidate people from disclosing
material to journalists by the threat of a raid which
will reveal a source. This can only be with the objective
of making potential sources more reluctant to come
Clarke, amongst others, says the aim is to introduce
a chill factor: There is a clampdown
here, unlike the UK. An ex-Special Branch officer
raided the night before us is facing trial.
had this before with the man accused of being Martin
Ingram (a pseudonym for an ex-army intelligence
figure who leaked key information concerning the security
force-led 1989 murder of Pat Finucane.)
cases often dont proceed to prosecution, as
with Ingram, but think of the impact on
a source who wanted to talk to a journalist. Though
nobody goes to jail the punishment is the searching,
the hassle, the phone-tapping and calling to see your
Orde says he is not a political policeman, many see
the raids as a carry-over from his time on the Stevens
team, when it pursued journalists Neil Mulholland
and Ed Moloney over the Finucane case; backed by the
NUJ Moloney secured a significant legal acknowledgement
of journalists privileges.
wants the PSNI challenged robustly: Orde doesnt
seem to have much respect for the press. If this proceeds
without any fuss it will set the standard for the
future. For Jeremy Dear the message is not lost:
It all demonstrates clearly the need for stronger
laws to protect a journalist's right to report and
to protect their sources."
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