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Belfast High Court gathering shows support for public interest journalism

7 September 2018

Members of the National Union of Journalists (NUJ) gathered outside the Courts of Justice in Belfast today in solidarity with the makers of the documentary 'No Stone Unturned'. Two journalists involved in making the film were arrested on Friday 31 August.

This morning an application for judicial review is due to come before the High Court for mention.

There was a large attendance this morning outside the court, led by Gerry Carson, NUJ Irish executive cathaoirleach and Alison Millar, vice president of the ICTU. 

Prior to the hearing, NUJ assistant general secretary, Séamus Dooley, met the journalists privately to assure them of continued trade union support and solidarity. They then joined NUJ members and supporters outside the court house for a brief gathering before entering the court.

Séamus Dooley said:

"The National Union of Journalists stands firmly with Barry McCaffrey, Trevor Birney and Fine Point Films in their resistance to this flawed police process. 'No Stone Unturned' is an uncomfortable documentary. It is deeply disturbing in the very best tradition of investigative journalism.

"Investigative journalism is not for the faint hearted. It is not the function of journalism to make life easy for those in positions of power or authority.

"Earlier this week in the House of Commons, the foreign secretary Jeremy Hunt eloquently spoke about the role of investigative journalists when he declared 'the two journalists were doing what is in the very best traditions of all journalism - exposing evil and bad things that governments do not want exposed.'

"Jeremy Hunt was talking about the appalling detention of journalists in Myanmar. This morning I invite the foreign secretary to add his voice to ours, as we also condemn the Myanmar imprisonments.

"The rights of journalists to expose things that governments or police authorities do not want to hear, is, like journalism itself, without borders.

"The arrest of Trevor and Barry and the raids on homes and offices last Friday were truly shocking.

"It would be reasonable to expect that the documentary might have had a response to the revelations, carefully and courageously laid out in 'No Stone Unturned', a response predicated on the need to finally bring to justice the killers of Adrian Rogan, Malcolm Jenkinson,  Barney Green,  Daniel McCreanor, Patrick O'Hare and Eamon Byrne.

"What is not reasonable, what is despicable is that the authorities instinct was not to act upon the revelations contained in the film, but to act against those who made the documentary.

"Let us be very clear - there are no secrets in this case. No stone has been left unturned.

"The PSNI and the Office of the Police Ombudsman were not surprised by the content of this documentary. Trevor Birney and Barry McCaffrey did not have to be arrested in the manner in which they were detained last week. There was no need for the dramatic raid, the huge police presence or indeed to release them on bail.

"Serious questions must be asked about the nature of the arrests, the warrants and the role of Durham Constabulary in this charade.

"We thank all those for attending today and for the many messages of support. We stand with Trevor, Barry, Fine Point Films and every journalist or documentary maker who feels under threat as a result of this aggressive action.

"We cannot allow journalism to be silenced and we invite all of you to stand with the NUJ in our fight to ensure, in the words of Raymond Williams - that journalism is allowed to be the arrow and not the target." 

The documentary film No Stone Unturned names suspects in a murder investigation in Northern Ireland. It highlights the collaborative relationship between the British army, RUC police and Loyalist paramilitary gangs.

The NUJ has launched a public petition in support of those arrested. The statement calls for the “immediate lifting of the threat of legal action against Trevor Birney and Barry McCaffrey.”

If you want to add your name to the NUJ petition then please email your name to endthreat@nuj.ie

Read the full text of the petition and the background details about the campaign

Tags: , belfast, no stone unturned, public interest, ethics, courts