Thomson will represent his evidence to inquiry
The pressures facing journalists determined to maintain the confidentiality of their sources will loom large again as Alex Thomson and Lena Ferguson are recalled to give evidence at the Bloody Sunday inquiry.
Thomson, Channel 4 News’s chief correspondent, and Ferguson, now BBC Northern Ireland’s head of political programmes, are due to reappear at the inquiry on Monday. Lord Saville is examining the killing of 13 people by British soldiers in Derry in January 1972.
The threat of contempt charges continues to hang over Thomson and Ferguson – who produced a series of reports on the deaths – following their first appearance before the inquiry in May 2002.
Despite Saville’s insistence, both refused to name the five soldiers they interviewed for their 1997 reports. According to the journalists, the soldiers, who were present on Bloody Sunday, agreed to be interviewed only on the condition of anonymity.
ITN, which produces Channel 4 News, also faces contempt charges for refusing to hand over tapes and materials related to the reports.
Thomson and Ferguson’s hearings were then adjourned as a result, and both were threatened with contempt of court and the possibility of serving prison sentences.
Despite repeated requests from ITN and the two journalists, the inquiry has not yet said whether it intends to proceed with a court action for contempt.
In the interim, Saville compelled them to return to their sources to see if any of them would consider giving up their anonymity. Three of the five soldiers have since agreed.
Martin McGuinness, the Sinn FÃ©in minister and former IRA commander who appeared before the inquiry last November, refused to name IRA colleagues because of his “republican code of honour”, yet no contempt charges have been threatened.
Channel 4 News’ deputy editor Martin Fewell said: “We’ve always felt we had a clear duty to co-operate with the inquiry, which our own journalism helped to bring about. But we would like to resolve the issue of contempt as soon as possible.”
Daily Telegraph journalist Toby Harnden has also refused to reveal the identities of two members of the Parachute Regiment he interviewed.
A spokesman for the paper said “neither Harnden nor the paper have been notified that he is being recalled to give any further evidence at the inquiry”.
By Wale Azeez