An international journalism association has called on Gerry Adams to retract controversial comments about holding an editor of the Irish Independent ‘at gunpoint’.
They have also asked the Sinn Fein party leader to “publicly affirm your abhorrence of all forms of violence against journalists”.
The World Association of Newspaper and News Publishers (WAN-IFRA) said they are ‘seriously concerned’ that a remark Gerry Adams made last week may be viewed ‘as a veiled threat’.
However, the Sinn Fein leader said tonight he has 'no intention' of withdrawing his remarks.
"I have no intention of withdrawing my remarks," he said in a statement on the Sinn Fein website.
In a letter addressed to ‘Mr Gerry Adams, President, Sinn Fein’, WAN-IFRA said they are writing on the behalf of the World Editors Forum, two groups which represent 18,000 publications, 15,000 online sites and over 3,000 companies in more than 120 countries 2to express our serious concern at your comments making light of violence against journalists".
“According to reports, at a fundraising dinner in New York last week, you joked about holding editors at gunpoint and criticised journalists who have sought to expose the involvement of Provisional IRA members in the cover up of a rape,” the letters reads.
At the event, Mr Adams referred to how Michael Collins dealt with the Irish Independent newspaper after they called for the leaders of the 1916 Rising to be executed almost 100 years ago.
“He went in, sent volunteers in, to the offices, held the editor at gunpoint, and destroyed the entire printing press. That’s what he did. Now I can just see the headline in the Independent tomorrow, I’m obviously not advocating that,” he told the $500-a-plate gathering.
The letter continues: “We are seriously concerned that this remark may be viewed as a veiled threat against Independent News & Media journalists and editors, whom you have criticised for investigating the Mairia Cahill rape scandal.
“At best, it is highly insensitive.
“Two Independent News & Media journalists have been murdered in the past 20 years; Veronica Guerin was shot dead in Dublin because of her reporting on criminal operations in 1996; and Martin O’Hagan was murdered in Northern Ireland by the Loyalist Volunteer Force in 2001.”
The letter said it “respectfully reminds” Gerry Adams that “even a facetious reference to attacking journalists is entirely inappropriate”.
“So far this year, 42 journalists have been killed while carrying out their profession,” the letter continues.
“The global campaign against impunity for those who attack journalists and other for exercising their right to freedom of expression is marked by the UN-designated International Day to End Impunity for Crimes against Journalists on November 2, only a matter of days before you made your remarks,” it adds.
WAN-IFRA are the latest group to express their concern at the political leader's comments. Today, the chairman of National Newspapers of Ireland said Mr Adams' comments are 'gravely concerning'.
Chairman of the NNI Vincent Crowley said Mr Adams’ remarks “while apparently in jest” were not only “wholly insensitive”, “but demonstrate a lack of understanding of the role of a free press as a vital bulwark of a healthy democracy”.
Mr Crowley continued in his statement to say that while a free press might sometimes make “for uncomfortable reading for politicians and others, it remains the indispensable means of keeping the public informed and holding those in positions of power accountable”.
Meanwhile, the International Investigators, Reporters and Editors group has called on the Sinn Fein leader to issue an apology for the comments made.
"When reporters around the world are being kidnapped and murdered for doing their jobs, jokes about killing a journalist are taken seriously," Sarah Cohen, IRE board president, told the Irish Independent yesterday.
"An apology could make that point to the public and others who might harm reporters for covering the news."
The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ), which represents more than 600,000 members around the globe, also said they oppose "any threats against journalists or media workers".
"Such comments only serve to undermine media rights and cannot be tolerated. It is deeply troubling to hear a statement coming from a democratically elected politician,” IFJ deputy general secretary Anthony Bellanger said.
When we think of Sinn Fein/IRA, their sense of humour doesn't immediately spring to mind. Instead, we think of the violence they have meted out to their enemies, perceived or otherwise. We think of the economic damage they have caused this State and we shudder to think about the further financial catastrophe they would visit upon us if they ever had any real power.