Security increase after threats made to INM journalists
Published 12/02/2016 | 02:30
Taoiseach Enda Kenny has led a chorus of condemnation of threats from criminals to the safety of a number of reporters at Independent News and Media.
The sinister warnings immediately brought back memories of the murder of the journalists' colleague, Veronica Guerin, 20 years ago.
The fearless 'Sunday Independent' investigative reporter was shot dead by members of the drug trafficking gang, led by John Gilligan, in June 1996.
The latest threats were formally notified by the gardaí to INM, and security for those named journalists is now being strengthened.
The threats were issued as a bloody feud between two major crime gangs erupted in Dublin, resulting in two deaths in less than 80 hours and saturation policing in the centre of the capital.
INM said it was working with gardaí to increase security around the journalists, and taking every precaution to ensure their safety.
“I should say that the personal security and safety of our people is of our utmost priority, and we have employed outside security consultants to provide risk assessments,” said Editor-in-Chief Stephen Rae.
“We’ve been working closely with the Garda to come up with a comprehensive security plan for the journalists.”
He continued: “It’s frightening to think that 20 years on, we’re back to the same scenario were reporters are threatened for doing their jobs."
Speaking on RTÉ’s Morning Ireland Mr Rae said, after consulting with the reporters involved, it was decided to make the threats public to highlight the danger posed to the media.
"The risk to our journalists represents a risk to society at large, this was one of the reasons why we went public… this is a very violate situation and these are a very dangerous gang of criminals who pose a threat to society at large."
The INM Editor-in-Chief said the attempts to intimidate reporters posed an outrageous threat to the freedom of the press.
"It is disturbing that threats of this nature have emerged as we approach the 20th anniversary of the death of our colleague, Veronica Guerin.
"I remember the trauma the organisation went through at the time…," he told Morning Ireland while also referencing the murder of Martin O'Hagan in Belfast in 2001.
"Both these colleagues were murdered simply because they were exposing the criminal activities of major gangs.
"Our media group will not be deterred from serving the public interest and highlighting the threat to society at large, posed by such criminals."
Mr Rae went on to say that the threats against the INM journalists were due to their reporting of the ongoing gangland feud and not because of the photos taken during and after the audacious gun attack on the Regency hotel last Friday.
Speaking to Independent.ie on the threats to INM journalists, the brother of the late Veronica Guerin said it was 'important' to make the threats public.
“I want to express my full support and admiration for the journalists under threat and for how Independent News & Media have dealt with this," Jimmy Guerin said.
“I think it was very important that they brought the information into the public dominion because it highlights the difficult circumstances that journalists have worked in since Veronica’s untimely death.
“I just hope that the people and the public come out and are very supportive of the journalists in question. I would added that my thoughts are with them at this time and I admire them for their bravery in going about their work."
Speaking about what the public could do, he said: “I think the public have a perfect opportunity, including politicians from all parties and political divides… to send a common message that not enough action is being taken to deal with the criminals and to make society a safer place for journalists, Gardaí, and everyone else going about their work.
“We’ve an opportunity over the next two weeks that when we raise all the issues we want to raise with the politicians."
Also speaking this morning to RTÉ's Morning Ireland was Seamus Dooley, Secretary of the NUJ, who described journalism as a dangerous profession, with 115 worldwide members of the NUJ killed last year.
Major political parties across immediately condemned the threat.
Taoiseach Enda Kenny said he deplored any threat made to any journalist in this jurisdiction.
"One of the pillars of a functioning democracy is freedom of speech, and in any self-respecting society journalists must be afforded the freedom to go about their jobs without fear of reprisal. Those who engaged in the recent killings on our streets will be brought to justice and no resource will be spared in doing so."
He said the journalists under threat had the Government's full support, as did all journalists going about their daily duties.
Tánaiste and Labour leader Joan Burton described the threat as a very disturbing development and an unwelcome reminder of the murder of Veronica Guerin.
A free press was the cornerstone of a democracy and any threat to an individual journalist was a threat to us all, she said.
Ms Burton pledged that she and her Cabinet colleagues were determined to ensure the gardaí had whatever resources they required to tackle these threats.
Justice Minister Frances Fitzgerald said journalists played a vital role in democracy, shining a light on wrongdoing.
"I regard any threat to the freedom of the press in Ireland as a threat to the State itself."
The minister said the gardaí were working closely with INM.
Sinn Féin president Gerry Adams said: "There can be no place in society for threats to any journalists. It is clear that the thugs and gangsters behind the recent shootings in Dublin believe that they can act with impunity.
"There is no place for them in our communities and An Garda Síochána must be fully supported and resources freed up to bring these gangsters to justice."
Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin said the sinister development evoked memories of the very worst days of gangland violence and Ms Guerin's murder.
"It will add to the sense of vulnerability and chaos that many communities now feel, and further confirms the total contempt that these thugs have for our society and the freedoms that we hold dear.
"We must face this violence with resolute action and we face these threats to journalists with more public scrutiny," Mr Martin said.
He wanted journalists to know they did not stand alone and that all decent people in this country stood behind them.
Renua Ireland leader Lucinda Creighton called on Government parties to suspend campaigning and meet urgently to agree a garda response.