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Suzanne Breen fights PSNI court order attempt

8 May 2009

Suzanne Breen, the Northern Ireland Editor of the Dublin-based Sunday Tribune, challenged an attempt by the police to obtain a wide-ranging high court order at Belfast Crown Court today. The order would require her to hand over source material relating to the Real IRA.

The NUJ national executive council passed a strong statement today in support of Suzanne Breen. The NUJ has a long-standing policy of supporting its members when defending their rights to maintain the confidentiality of source material.

If the police and security services are able to access confidential journalistic material, the future of investigative journalism would be put at risk, according to the union.

Séamus Dooley, NUJ Irish Secretary, explained:

"If the police begin to use journalists as a tool of intelligence gathering, sources won't have confidence that they can speak openly to the press. That means stories will go uncovered and journalists will be put in physical danger."

The following motion was adopted by the union's NEC today:

"This NEC applauds the stand taken by Suzanne Breen in resisting legal attempts to reveal journalistic sources. NEC notes support from the Sunday Tribune and fully expects management to continue their fight to defend both her and press freedom.
"NEC reaffirms its belief that journalists and journalism should not be used as extensions of the state."

The NEC pledged to give "all practicable support" to Suzanne Breen in her case.

Séamus Dooley added:

"This case is deeply worrying both because of the sweeping nature of the order being sought and way in which the case is being approached by the police. We are particularly concerned that the Police Service of Northern Ireland has sought for the entire case to be held behind closed doors and that they have made an application for a preliminary in camera hearing in the absence of Suzanne Breen's legal team."

The case is expected to resume on Tuesday.

Tags: , code of conduct, suzanne breen, nec, real ira, protection of sources, psni, police