Policing board urged to launch inquiry into covert spying of media

  • 04 Mar 2024

The NUJ, Amnesty International and the Committee on the Administration of Justice are calling for the Northern Ireland Policing Board to launch an investigation into unlawful covert surveillance of journalists by the Police Service of Northern Ireland.

The call follows new revelations at last week’s Investigatory Powers Tribunal (IPT) in London that the PSNI has spied, not just on Barry McCaffrey and Trevor Birney in 2013 and 2018, but also on another well-known, but not yet named, journalist from another major media organisation.

It also emerged that the Metropolitan Police, as well as the Durham Constabulary and the PSNI, were involved in spying on Northern Ireland journalists. The PSNI has already accepted that its 2013 surveillance operation targeting McCaffrey was unlawful, while the High Court in Belfast found that the 2018 raid on Birney and McCaffrey’s homes and offices, when files and electronic devices were seized and the pair were arrested, was unlawful.

Amnesty, CAJ and the NUJ will now call on the Policing Board to launch an inquiry into police spying on journalists. The Board is due to meet in public on Thursday (7 March), when the issue is expected to be raised.

The organisations are strongly urging other Northern Ireland journalists who suspect they may have been targeted for covert surveillance by the police to lodge complaints with the Investigatory Powers Tribunal.

The organisations fear that the pattern of covert and intrusive surveillance by the police against journalists, and potentially others such as lawyers and activists, goes much further than the incidents revealed so far.

The NUJ has a long history of supporting source protection and opposing surveillance of journalists.

Members who feel they have may have been subject to unlawful surveillance may contact their local official or [email protected] in strict confidence.

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