Thursday, 28 May 2009

Confidential Sources Hearing Postponed

The confidential sources case scheduled against Sunday Tribune Northern Editor Suzanne Breen for tomorrow 28 May has been postponed until mid-June.

The Support Group have forwarded the following information.

International support over protection of sources

Journalists and supporters from across the world are backing NUJ member Suzanne Breen – who faces jail for refusing to hand her notes to the police.

The Northern Ireland editor of the Dublin-based Sunday Tribune is resisting an order to surrender confidential sources of information relating to articles about the Real IRA.

She had been due to appear in court tomorrow (Friday) but the case will be adjourned for a full hearing.

More than 1,500 people from as far afield as Canada, Norway and Ukraine have signed a petition in support of Suzanne over 600 on facebook. Sign the petition:

Support Suzanne Breen on Facebook:

Yesterday Aidan White, General Secretary of the International Federation of Journalists raised the case at a conference on freedom expression organised by the Council of Europe in Iceland.

Founded in the 1949 to promote democracy the Council of Europe is bigger than the European Union – with 47 members states.

Aidan said: “Legal intimidation of reporters to reveal their sources threatens the lives of investigative journalists as well as encouraging a culture of secrecy. The case of Suzanne Breen in Ireland, a distinguished journalist supported by colleagues either side of a troubled border, is just the latest example of a reporter under fire in the courts because of her revealing journalism about paramilitary groups.

“If she is forced to comply, journalistic scrutiny will be sacrificed, democracy will suffer and she will be put in harm's way. The Council of Europe as a guardian of liberties and rights has a duty to speak out against member states when they compromise media freedom in this way."

At lunchtime today at the Buswells Hotel, Dublin, the NUJ launched a public campaign in the Republic of Ireland in association with the Sunday Tribune in defence of Suzanne Breen’s right to protect her confidential sources of information.

NUJ Irish Secretary Séamus Dooley told the meeting that the Breen case is of fundamental importance because the right to protect confidential sources is a key tenet of journalism.
He said: “A professional journalist who compromises that principle loses the right to call himself or herself a journalist and alters forever the relationship of trust with sources and with the reader, viewer or listener.”

Sunday Tribune editor Noirin Hegarty said: “If you think that press freedom is important and that it matters that journalists can do their jobs without fear or persecution, you need to stand with us. We are the observers and the outsiders and we will be vigorous in our defence of our right to keep our sources confidential.

“We will be vigorous in our protection of this journalist’s life. To do anything else would not just be a betrayal of Suzanne Breen’s journalistic bravery, but a betrayal of journalism itself.”

Séamus Dooley said the Police Service of Northern Ireland’s actions towards Suzanne Breen were heavy handed and clearly designed to intimidate journalists.

Séamus said: “The decision by the PSNI to seek a sweeping order of this magnitude; the fact that evidence was given by the PSNI in private; the grim determination of the PSNI to pursue the case against Suzanne Breen and the Sunday Tribune must alarm not just every journalist in Ireland, North and South but everyone who cares about preserving a free, unfettered media.”

Martin Fitzpatrick, of the NUJ Dublin branch, welcomed the cross-community and cross-political support for the campaign, especially in Northern Ireland.

Martin, a member of the Press Council of Ireland, said the fact that adversaries in Northern Ireland from across the sectarian divide had joined with politicians, trade unionists, community groups and those representing victims of violence was important recognition that the issue was not merely of interest to journalists but of fundamental importance to all.

Suzanne Breen spoke at a meeting in London on Tuesday – attended by human rights lawyers and other journalists who had fought against legal intimidation to reveal their sources.

On the day of Suzanne Breen's court case the NUJ will organise protests outside the Northern Ireland Office in Westminster and the Belfast Recorder's Court. The date for the hearing was recetly postponed, so please email to register an interest and we'll let you know when the protests will take place.
28 May 2009

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