Saturday 10 December 2016

Political leaders condemn 'outrageous' threats received by INM journalists from Dublin criminal gangs

Published 11/02/2016 | 17:08

A Garda cordon outside the Regency Hotel in Dublin after one man died and two others were injured following a shooting incident at the hotel
A Garda cordon outside the Regency Hotel in Dublin after one man died and two others were injured following a shooting incident at the hotel

Independent News and Media has strongly condemned threats from organised crime gangs to the safety of a number of its reporters.

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The sinister move follows the latest bloodshed on the streets of Dublin as a result of a deadly feud between two major gangs.

This year is the twentieth anniversary of the murder of fearless Sunday Independent investigative reporter, Veronica Guerin, who was shot dead in June 1996 by members of the drug trafficking gang, led by John Gilligan.

Ms Guerin's murder led to a big crackdown by the Government on crime that included the setting up of the Criminal Assets Bureau.

The new threats were formally notified by the gardai to INM and security for those journalists is now being strengthened.

INM editor-in-chief Stephen Rae said: "This is an outrageous threat to the freedom of the press in Ireland and we are taking the threats with the utmost seriousness.

"The safety of our journalists is of paramount importance.

"It is disturbing that threats of this nature have emerged as we approach the 20th anniversary of the death of our colleague, Veronica Guerin, who was murdered by criminals for exposing their activities.

"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 added.

Taoiseach Enda Kenny said he and the government deplored and condemned any threat made to any journalist in this jurisdiction.

One of the pillars of a function democracy was 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", Mr Kenny said.

The Taoiseach added that the journalists under threat had their full support as did all journalists bravely going about their daily duties.

Irish secretary of the National Union of Journalists, Seamus Dooley said he learned with shock of the threats.

He said they were gravely concerned at this latest development, which followed the two recent senseless murders in Dublin.

"Journalists and media organisations will not be intimidated by such threats, which have no place in a democratic society.

"No journalists should be placed under threat for doing their job.  We remind all journalists to remain vigilant and to be mindful of their personal safety", Mr Dooley said.

Fianna Fail leader Micheal Martin described the threats as a very sinister development and said it would evoke memories of the very worst days of gangland violence and the murder of Veronica Guerin.

He said it would add to the sense of vulnerability and chaos that many communities now felt and further confirmed the total contempt that those thugs had for society and the freedoms that people held dear.

Mr Martin told the journalists that they did not stand alone and that all right thinking decent people in the country stood with them.

Meanwhile, Justice Minister Frances Fitzgerald said: "Journalists play a vital role in our democracy, particularly in shining a light on wrongdoing. I regard any threat to the freedom of the press in Ireland as a threat to the State itself."

"An Garda Síochána are working closely with Independent News and Media to do everything possible to ensure the safety of their journalists."

Renua Ireland leader Lucinda Creighton has called for campaigning to be suspended in the General Election on the back of the latest developments.

Ms Creighton said this evening that the Cabinet needs to meet to come up with an adequate response to the crisis.

“The events of the last week now represent a threat to the security of the State,” she said.

Meanwhile, Tanaiste Joan Burton described the threats as "a very disturbing development".

"The news today that gangland figures have issued death threats against Independent News and Media journalists is a very disturbing development, and is an unwelcome reminder of the callous murder of Veronica Guerin 20 years ago."

"I would like to offer my support to the journalists who have been subject to these alarming threats. I have no doubt that this must very distressing for themselves and their families."

"A free press is the cornerstone of a democracy, and any threat to an individual journalist is a threat to us all."

"Myself and my cabinet colleagues are determined to ensure that An Garda Siochana have whatever resources they require to tackle these vile threats," Ms Burton said.

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