Outrage at sinister threat to Sunday World journalist

Graffiti, threatening Sunday World journalist Patricia Devlin, on a wall in Belfast

Steven Moore

There is widespread condemnation tonight after a journalist at an Independent News and Media title was targeted with a sinister threat in Northern Ireland.

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

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

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,” said the East Belfast MLA.

“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.”

Last night Peter Vandermeersch, Publisher at Independent News and Media, said it wasn’t the first time Patricia Devlin has “faced serious threats”.

In a statement 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 a number of 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 were 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 underneath their cars.

A number of reporters were visited by police officers in the early hours of Friday morning with warnings of imminent attacks.

Speaking about the recent threat to Patricia Devlin 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.”