PSNI’s media message/massage/pummelling

Last week Rusty noted how journalist Eammon MacDermott had property confiscated by the PSNI as part of an investigation into armed republican activity in Derry. While some may think the fact he was an ex-prisoner could have influenced the PSNI reaction, British policing has a long history of heavy handedness when it comes to freedom of the press in Ireland.

Back in 1999 Ed Moloney faced gaol over refusing to pass on interview notes with William Stobie. Moloney won the case.

Liam Clarke and his wife Kathrine Johnston were arrested and had notes, files etc taken in an attempt to identify the source of leaked documents that embarassed Sinn Féin and the British Government in 2003. No case was brought against them or any other person.

Suzanne Breen recently won a case brought against her by the PSNI over her refusal to hand over notes on Real IRA interviews.

However, this week saw another ‘scoop’ from Irish News journalist Allison Morris as the paper carried a lengthy interview with a leading member of the dissident group Oglaigh na hEireann’. (Irish News not online without sub)

As yet the Irish News offices haven’t been raided, neither has Morris’ home, she retains all her property and certainly hasn’t been arrested or threatened with gaol or the courts.

Might this have something to do with the 15 pages of ‘We say stop’ coverage the Irish News ran alongside their exclusive? Did they report the right way? Maybe the PSNI have learnt a lesson on dealing with the press in just a few days?

Whatever the reason, these Irish News exclusives that receive no PSNI reaction stand in stark contrast to the treatment others continue to receive from the police for reporting on similar areas.

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  • Interesting debate – i had and still intend to question the PSNI about this at a forthcoming DPP meeting

  • Mark, how can you possibly state as a fact that the PSNI pay no attention to the Irish News and the other main daily newspapers and broadcasters ? Is it conceivable that some outlets have gone public on challenges from the police and others have not ? Have you asked anyone from the daily papers what their experience has been ? Or are you just guessing ?

  • Mark McGregor

    OH,

    Are you claiming the Irish News and the rest of the MSM is suppressing or hiding PSNI action against their staff?

  • Cynic

    And I have it on good authority that they serve babies on toast for breakfast in the police canteens

  • West Sider

    The dissies have given a lot interviews recently, but strangely no journalist has asked them, nor have they offered an answer to, the most important question of all:

    If you kill someone, will you come out and explain to the family of the victim why they had to die to serve your aims?

    Your murder campaign has as much support as a north Dublin drug gang, so can you stand face-to-face with the bereaved and tell them straight why their loved one had to die to serve your selfish, psychotic aims.

    Imagine if that undercar bomb had gone off and that PSNI officer and her young child had been killed. Or if those kids in Lurgan had been killed or maimed.

    Can any of them, instead of meeting in secret with a journalist, say they have the courage or strength of their convictions to come out and say to those in utter torment over this, that they decide who lives and who dies, and offer an explanation why those people had to die to serve their selfish and strategic aims?

    Will they tell them – to their face – that despite what the overwhelming majority in Ireland say – they are the only ones that matter and that kids being slaughtered is a price to pay for them to pursue their selfish ends?

    Mark – what do you think?

    You have kids… What excuse would you accept for your kids coming home in a white box?

  • Cynic

    ” Can any of them, instead of meeting in secret with a journalist, say they have the courage or strength of their convictions to come out and say to those in utter torment over this, ”

    I agree. But did PIRA?

  • Mark McGregor

    ‘If you kill someone, will you come out and explain to the family of the victim why they had to die to serve your aims?’

    Thats a strong question.

    Despite her ‘contacts’ Allison hasn’t got close to asking such an interesting one.

    Maybe thats why the PSNI have no interest in her?

  • fitzjameshorse1745

    Journalists dont go to jail…..and neither will McDermott. Bernard Falk spent three days in the Crumlin Road in the early 1970s but since then I cant think of any journo who was sent down.
    Moloney wasnt. Breen wasnt.
    But rather than ask the question why are the PSNI interested in a ex-prisoner who is a journalist and appears sympathetic to dissidents and appears to be their fave journ alist (actually ts not a very difficult question).
    Or rather than ask why an Irish News journo is toeing the party line with “PSNI” and also by the way the party line of SF and SDLP and the vast majority of Irish News readers …that the dissidents are scum who are working against the interests of the people of Ireland.

    Id ask a different question………why is no journalist racing to the defence of McDermott in the way they raced to the defence of Moloney and Breen.
    Maybe McDermott is not toeing the NUJ “party within a party” line.

  • Kathryn Johnston

    Journalists and the NUJ have certainly defended Eamonn McDermott in the same way that they defended Suzanne Breen, Ed Moloney, Liam Clarke and myself.

    http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-northern-ireland-11032486
    and
    http://www.u.tv/News/Union-furious-over-journalist-phone-seizure/6ec11c4c-a93d-403a-9ea5-88fb453ace9a

  • jojo

    I’m sure they will also come out and back him so he’s not forced to give evidence as he seems to be the only ‘witness’. Had he withheld the ‘evidence’ like Moloney and Breen did we’d have heard even more from the NUJ at this stage

  • Oracle

    Fitz,

    You’re slighting people with an 8″ tar brush… but then again that’s you do for a past-time

  • Oracle

    I can’t really see the new PSNI being that blatant about media inconsistencies, they may be cumbersome and ineffective but they have been humbled enough by the NUJ in the Belfast courts to know that they would be exposing themselves in future cases if they didn’t approach the Irish news for the notes and details of meetings.

    Therefore either the Irish news is handing over all documentation quietly to the PSNI on the side or the dissident contact supplying the Irish news with their stories is already working for Special Branch and hence no harassment of the Irish News is required.

  • joeCanuck

    Mark,
    I hereby award you a well earned MOPE medal; Most Oppressive Pessimist Ever.
    C’mon, give us a good news story once in a while. Pete does astronomy and particle physics. What’s your favourite hobby?

  • Mark McGregor

    Note: my blog has been edited by Mick at the request of a 3rd party. I’m informed there will be some kind of update on why.

  • fitzjameshorse1745

    Yes they always back their own.

  • fitzjameshorse1745

    If Irish News readers only had the sense to stop buying it….and read some dissident hate websites……they would be so much better and independently informed. No Party Lines there….or here.

  • Mick Fealty

    This is from the Irish News:

    * Mark McGregor asks a number of questions of the Irish News, all of which I would have been happy to answer if they had been put to me. I can confirm that, as editor, I was responsible for all decisions in relation to our special edition of Monday, August 23, and I stand over the content in its entirety.

    Mark is completely wrong to assume that coverage in the Irish News receives `no reaction’ from the PSNI, as a considerable amount of my time is spent in dealing with formal approaches from detectives in the course of their investigations.

    We have firm policies in this regard which have not changed throughout my time as editor and are designed to address all our legal responsibilities while protecting the integrity of the paper and its staff.

    Unless exceptional circumstances are involved, we regard these matters as private. However, I would be surprised if other news organisations in Belfast do not face similar challenges on a regular basis.

    Noel Doran,
    Editor,
    The Irish News.

  • Mark McGregor

    I note this response from Noel has no reference to the line he requested was removed from the blog and which Mick removed without my agreement.

    I absolutely reject the allegations put to Mick by Noel in relation to that line and stand over my statement put directly to him that he had made an incorrect inference on what was written.

    I suggest he may have been overly sensitive as one of his staff was mentioned and missed the fact the entry was about the PSNI’s reaction to the media and how they cover certain issues and anything implied was therefore over the police.

    While I accept Mick’s editorial right to alter things as he sees fit to protect himself if he perceives a risk, I think in this case that decision was wrong and has been a result of taking the easiest option when facing external pressure. As Mick put it to me ‘not worth dying in a ditch over’.

    As for Noel’s response that his paper does receive attention from the PSNI, I accept that to be truth. However, it clearly has not received anywhere near the same level of attention as that noted in the cases linked.

    I stand over the question – why do they not receive the same level of attention up to arrest and removal of property as other journalists have done.

    The answer to that does not lie with the Irish News, it is with the PSNI and I doubt we will ever know but speculating on the reasons behind the sliding scale of police reaction to different journalists remains a valid topic for discussion.

  • joeCanuck

    Mark,

    Do you have any hidden agenda here? In other words, have the PSNI ever contacted you about anything you have blogged?

  • Mark McGregor

    No agenda just writing something up after two people mentioned it.

  • At least the Irish News made some effort to actually interview someone from OnH, unlike some of the Sunday rag ‘journalists’ who simply trawl republican forums and then quote “well-placed republican sources”.

    From talking to some of journalists I know who’ve had face to face contact with dissidents, the interactions have been pythonesque to say the least. The well isn’t exactly deep.

  • West Sider

    Aldous,

    I’ve heard the exact same thing, and explains why certain journos (normally in the thrall to the dissies) have given them a wide berth recently.

    There’s a suspicion there, and not to put too fine a point on it, a vague belief that ‘freeing Ireland’ is not their primary motivation.

    BTW – while we’re talking about the Irish News, the word on the street and among friends (and, full disclosure: a relative) is that it is seriously annoying the gay community. It is seen as relentlessly homophobic under GAA fanatic Doran’s stewardship.

    Can’t comment on this, but interested in what others think.

    A close relative claims that they used their editorial last year to slam the Pride Parade over a single incident, and earlier had used the same platform to praise Ian Paisley jr for his anti-gay rants.

    Amazed that this hasn’t hit Slugger or other media.

  • West Sider

    Let’s be frank about this: they got a scoop with a dissies organisation during the silly season, and then decided to run it under the WE SAY STOP banner in case readers arrived at the very reasonable conclusion that they were using these interviews to boost sales during a down period.

    And give credibility and visibility to the criminal gangs they lecture us about the other 51 weeks of the year.

    I’m glad they’re beinhd a pay wall.

  • Scath Sheamais

    Are you suggesting there’s a correlation between ‘relentless homphobia’ and ‘GAA fanatism’?

  • Scath Sheamais

    The Irish News probably isn’t of as much interest to the PSNI because they have always been more than helpful whenever the peelers had a request to make of them. Note the recent publication of numerous photos in the Irish News of people the PSNI wanted for questioning related to the Twelfth riots.