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United Kingdom 11 May 2009

Northern Ireland police take journalist to court over source material

Reporters Without Borders firmly condemns an attempt by the Northern Ireland police to obtain a court order in Belfast that would force Suzanne Breen, the Belfast editor of the Dublin-based Sunday Tribune newspaper, to hand over all her source material about the Real IRA, an Irish Republican Army splinter group.

“Journalists are neither police auxiliaries nor criminals,” Reporters Without Borders said. “The confidentiality of sources is a cornerstone of investigative journalism and must be protected and guaranteed. It is legitimate to combat terrorism using all appropriate methods, but they must not threaten the confidentiality of journalists’ investigations, especially when sensitive issues are involved.

“We must also point out that, by forcing journalists to reveal their sources, the authorities may put them in danger and expose them to reprisals,” the press freedom organisation said.

“We also condemn the attempt by the Northern Ireland authorities to have this case heard behind closed doors and for Breen to be questioned without her lawyers being present,” Reporters Without Borders added. “Such methods are unworthy of a democracy and set a regrettable example which could be used by undemocratic regimes to justify their own repressive policies regarding press freedom.”

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