Friday, 19 June 2009

Press Freedom Victory

A big victory for Suzanne Breen and journalists' rights to do our job free from fear or coercion.

Last week, I've posted an entry asking to sign a petition in support of Northern Ireland journalist Suzanne Breen, who was facing imprisonment for refusing to surrender confidential sources and information relating to an article on the real IRA.

Yesterday, Judge Thomas Burgess in a Belfast Court refused an application, which would have forced the Northern Editor of the Sunday Tribune to hand over notes, computer equipment and other material obtained in the course of her work as a journalist. The court order was requested by the Police Service of Northern Ireland.

The National Union of Journalist hailed the judge's decision "a landmark victory for journalism and civil liberties." NUJ president, James Doherty, praised the courage of Breen and her editor, Noirin Hegarty, in standing up to the police. "At last week's hearing, Suzanne and Noirin proudly stood by the NUJ code of conduct and this ruling is justification of their stand," he said.

Amnesty International also welcomed the judge's decision, but issued a note of caution.

“This case had serious implications for the freedom of the press in the UK and Ireland," said Amnesty International Northern Ireland Programme Director Patrick Corrigan.

"Freedom of the press is an essential element of the right to freedom of expression, recognised under international law, and in general includes the principle that journalists must be able to protect their sources.

“We welcome today’s decision but remain concerned at this attempt by the PSNI to use secret evidence and anti-terrorism legislation against a journalist."

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