sick Graffiti  | 

Revulsion mounts over death threats to Sunday World reporter

Secretary of State Brandon Lewis described it as “truly menacing”.

Threats against Sunday World journalist condemned Graffiti has appeared in east Belfast with the name of award-winning reporter Patricia Devlin along with cross hairs

Steven Moore

Revulsion at a cowardly death threat targeting Sunday World reporter Patricia Devlin continued to flood in yesterday.

Graffiti appeared in a number of locations in east Belfast with the name of award-winning reporter Patricia Devlin along with cross-hairs.

Justice Minister Naomi Long described the sick graffiti as a “chilling sight”.

And after the news broke on Friday night, people from across the political spectrum condemned the sinister threat.

Secretary of State Brandon Lewis described it as “truly menacing”. He tweeted: “Journalists play a crucial role in any free and fair society and I completely condemn this crude attempt at intimidation. We must stand firm against these disturbing threats to our journalists, simply for doing their jobs.”

The national Union of Journalists called on the PSNI to take action. NUJ Irish secretary Seamus Dooley said: “This menacing and cowardly graffiti is the behaviour of thugs who are trying to target and intimidate a specific journalist, but they are also trying to send a warning message to other media workers.

“The NUJ calls on the PSNI as well as Northern Ireland’s political and community leaders to do all they can to support independent, quality journalism.

“The authorities must now identify and prosecute the perpetrators to the full extent of the law.

Sunday World journalist Patricia Devlin

“This latest threat is an attempt to stop journalists from reporting on current turbulent events in Northern Ireland. It is also part of a wider trend of increasing threats since the first lockdown.

“Women journalists, in particular, are regularly targeted on social media and this is an added dimension to the current toxic atmosphere endured by many journalists.”

Among those to publicly support the award-winning journalist were grieving mother Fiona Donohoe, who continues to campaign for justice for her son Noah, who died in unexplained circumstances last summer.

Fiona tweeted: “This woman has great integrity and my goodness thank god for journalists (very hard to come by ) like her... She is someone who stands against the current... stands by integrity.

Alliance Party Leader Naomi Long said she “remained fully committed to tackling threats made to journalists”.

“This is a chilling sight. In Northern Ireland in 2021 no reporter should be the target of such a sinister threat simply for doing their job,” the Justice Minister said.

“This attempt to intimidate and divert attention from criminal activity will not succeed and I remain fully committed to tackling threats made to journalists. My thoughts are with Trish Devlin at this worrying time.”

Shadow Secretary of State Louise Haigh tweeted: “Appalled to see you facing further threats simply for doing your job @trishdevlin.

"Your courage and integrity was so obvious when we met. The intimidation you and journalists across Northern Ireland are facing is sickening and must be stamped out.”

Peter Vandermeersch, Publisher at Independent News and Media, said it wasn’t the first time Patricia had “faced serious threats.2

He said: “This is an attempt once again to intimidate a journalist who is just doing her job. The Sunday World shows no fear or favour when reporting on criminality and paramilitarism in Northern Ireland.

“Just two months ago, Patricia faced serious threats from loyalist paramilitaries. We will provide any support we can to our journalists and hope that those behind this are apprehended by the police.”

The threats come as part of a disturbing pattern which has seen a number of journalists from across Northern Ireland face death threats.

Last week it emerged two BBC journalists had been targeted after being involved in the making of a Panorama documentary about Dublin crime boss Daniel Kinahan.

One reporter was forced to leave his home for a period such was the seriousness of the threat, according to the PSNI.

Last year a number of journalists in Northern Ireland were made aware of death threats from loyalist paramilitary groups.

Two reporters from the Sunday World were warned of an “imminent attack” from criminal elements within the UDA last November.

And that came just a few days after a separate reporter working for INM was told their life was in danger.

The breakaway South East Antrim UDA (Ulster Defence Association) was being linked to that threat, following a spate of similar incidents earlier last year.

The reporters were told they were being targeted and were warned about bombs being planted under their cars.

Speaking about the recent threat to Patricia, Sunday World editor Brian Farrell said the authorities should take a zero-tolerance approach to such threats.

He said the company was taking the threat “very seriously” and the Sunday World would continue to “follow the truth”.

“This is completely unacceptable, and we are fully co-operating with the police about this threat which they are taking very seriously,” said Mr Farrell.

“Rigorous investigative journalism is a basic requirement of a democratic society and we’ll not be intimidated from doing our job.

“Our readers know we will follow the truth wherever it leads us and our team of journalists will continue to do so despite this intimidation.”

And Sinéad McLaughlin MLA, secretary of the Northern Ireland Assembly’s All Party Group on Press Freedom and Media Sustainability, also condemned the threats.

She said: “I am confident that I speak on behalf of all MLAs when I say the latest threats against a working journalist are totally unacceptable and are an attack on the functioning of democracy. A free press is fundamental to a free society.

“It is essential that politicians demonstrate their solidarity with journalists, especially when those journalists are exposing the murky world of criminal gangs and drug dealing.

"Paramilitaries have no place in our society, nor have threats to journalists.

“The increase over recent months of threats against the media is another indication of the difficult times we are in.

“It is essential that the PSNI takes effective action against those issuing threats, whether by graffiti, post or social media.

"As a female politician I am also extremely concerned at the targeting of women journalists, which adds another upsetting dimension to the criminal actions of these gangs. They have no credibility in our society and must be eradicated.”

Patricia thanked everyone who had offered support to her in the last 48 hours and vowed to continue to continue to expose “thugs and bullies terrorising their own communities”.

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