The release of Hollywood film A Mighty Heart this week drew the world’s attention again to the kidnap and murder of Wall Street Journal reporter Daniel Pearl in January 2002. This week Press Gazette reports how one of Pearl’s former colleagues has launched a new online project – Pearlpedia – aimed at finding his killers.
Shortly before Pearl’s execution by Islamic fundamentalists, British journalism had its own martyr when Sunday World journalist Martin O’Hagan was gunned down by Loyalist paramilitaries, six years ago this week.
O’Hagan’s colleagues don’t need to start their own version of The Pearl Project to find his killers – they already know the names of the eight men they believe were the hit squad, and a year ago they gave the names to Press Gazette. It remains their firm belief that the eight have never been charged because some were police or army informants.
Now there appears to be some progress at last in the campaign for justice in the O’Hagan case. The Northern Ireland police ombudsman is reviewing the original investigation into his killing and a new police review team is to look at unsolved terrorist murders between 1998 and 2004.
O’Hagan’s was more than just another senseless killing among the thousands who died during The Troubles – he was the only journalist in the entire history of the conflict murdered by paramilitaries for doing his job.
If the killers of a journalist have impunity then the ramifications go far beyond one tragic death – they threaten the press freedom which is the cornerstone of a democratic society.