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September 10, 2018updated 07 Nov 2023 7:33am

NUJ says ‘we cannot allow journalism to be silenced’ after gathering outside Belfast court in solidarity with arrested reporters

By Dorothy Musariri

“We cannot allow journalism to be silenced”, the National Union of Journalists said as its members gathered in Belfast in solidarity with two reporters arrested in a “dramatic raid”.

Trevor Birney (pictured second right) and Barry McCaffrey (pictured second left) were detained for hours for questioning on 31 August before being released on bail, in connection with the alleged theft of confidential material used in No Stone Unturned.

The documentary, released last year, looked into the 1994 Loughinisland loyalist pub shootings in the Co Down village.

It examined the persistent claims of state collusion in the murders and broke new ground by publicly naming those it said were suspects.

Members of the NUJ gathered outside the Courts of Justice in Belfast to show their support for Birney, 51, and McCaffrey, 48, as they waited for their application for judicial review to take place.

Barry Macdonald, the lawyer representing the documentary makers Fine Point Films, claimed the search warrant did not cover all the contents seized from the two journalists, according to the BBC.

Macdonald asked for an independent lawyer or retired judge to be appointed to inspect everything seized by the police, taking back anything not covered by the warrant.

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Police were told not to examine any of the documents and equipment they seized until the court has had time to consider this proposal.

The gathering outside court was organised and led by NUJ Irish executive cathaoirleach Gerry Carson (pictured left) and vice president of the Irish Congress of Trade Unions Alison Millar.

NUJ assistant general secretary Seamus Dooley (pictured right) met Birney and McCaffrey before the hearing and privately assured them of “continued trade union support and solidarity”.

In a statement, Dooley said: “The National Union of Journalists stands firmly with Barry McCaffrey, Trevor Birney and Fine Point Films in their resistance to this flawed police process.

“No Stone Unturned is an uncomfortable documentary. It is deeply disturbing in the very best tradition of investigative journalism.

“Investigative journalism is not for the faint hearted. It is not the function of journalism to make life easy for those in positions of power or authority.”

He added that the arrests, and associated raids on homes and offices, were “truly shocking”.

Dooley said the two journalists “did not have to be arrested in the manner in which they were detained last week” and that there was “no need for the dramatic raid, the huge police presence or indeed to release them on bail”.

He said serious questions about the arrests should be asked.

Dooley thanked those who attended the gathering on Friday and those who had sent messages of support.

“We stand with Trevor, Barry, Fine Point Films and every journalist or documentary maker who feels under threat as a result of this aggressive action,” he said.

“We cannot allow journalism to be silenced and we invite all of you to stand with the NUJ in our fight to ensure, in the words of Raymond Williams, that journalism is allowed to be the arrow and not the target.”

The NUJ has launched a petition in support of those arrested, calling for the “immediate lifting of the threat of legal action” against Birney and McCaffrey”.

Picture: Seamus Dooley

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