Saville renews threat to Bloody Sunday duo

Thomson and Ferguson: under fire

The threat of prosecution for contempt hanging over the two television journalists who refused to disclose sources to the Bloody Sunday inquiry was restated this week.

Inquiry chairman Lord Saville warned Alex Thomson and Lena Ferguson on Monday that he was “actively considering” legal action against them.

Thomson, Channel 4 News’s chief correspondent and Ferguson, a former producer on the bulletin and now head of political programmes at BBC Northern Ireland, were recalled to the inquiry this week.

During their initial appearance at the inquiry in May 2002, they refused to name the five soldiers anonymously interviewed for their 1997 and 1998 reports.

At the inquiry Ferguson asked Saville: “When we were here before we were placed in contempt as I understand it and for two years we have had that hanging over us. I wondered today, would it be possible to get an explanation of what our position is?” Saville replied: “Before we take any action on that [contempt], we have waited to see if we can find out by other means the identity of the soldiers in question. As you know, we have been successful in a number of cases… and have been actively considering it for some time so I do not think you are going to have to wait too long and I am sorry you have had this wait.

It is a very serious step to take, as you will obviously appreciate and we wanted to make sure that we had exhausted all other means of trying to get the information before taking this step.”

In his evidence, Thomson also raised the issue of the importance of protecting the confidentiality of sources.

“It is Monday today. On Wednesday we will have the Hutton report and with that in mind nobody, but nobody, should need any reminding of the importance of helping people who do not wish their identity to be disclosed to the public and when public institutions attempt to try and do that I think we all know we are into very dangerous territory.”

The NUJ backed the two journalists, declaring that any move to prosecute them for contempt for refusing to betray confidential sources would be “utterly wrong”

By Wale Azeez

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