ED MOLONEY, Northern Ireland correspondent
of the Sunday Tribune, is freed from the threat of jail. On
27 October the High Court in Belfast overturned wan order which would
have required Ed to hand over confidential interview notes -
or go directly to jail. But other journalists who have covered events
in Northern Ireland, including freelances, should expect more demands
to give up confidential material.
Freelance National Executive member Kevin Cooper told the November
London Freelance branch meeting that "The only reason this judgement
was obtained was that the courts in Northern Ireland knew that the
world was watching them. Statements of support for Ed, including those
from LFB and Freelance Industrial Council - which responded before
the rest of the union - were important to ensuring the courts
knew people are concerned with human rights."
Kevin was gratified how well other trades unionists in Northern Ireland
understood the issues and how readily they offered support. The case
concerned an interview Ed did with William Stobie, who was charged
with the murder in 1989 of solicitor Pat Finucane. Ed promised to
keep the interview confidential until Stobie got into trouble -
and published a page-and-a-half in the Sunday Tribune when
he was arrested. Clearly there couldn't be much left in the notes.
But for any journalist to break the confidence of a source alleged
to be involved both with paramilitary groups and with British Intelligence
could endanger the lives of all journalists. Fortunately, the nature
of the Appeal Court finding "raises the barrier for proceedings
against journalists in Northern Ireland," Kevin said. Until now,
mere suspicion by a police officer had often been sufficient to get
a court order.
Meanwhile, the new inquiry into the Bloody Sunday shootings is likely
to issue more orders against journalists. It has already asked the
NUJ for the addresses of 13 journalists - three of whom were
11, 10 and unborn at the time of the 1972 killing of 14 people in
Derry. General Secretary John Foster responded that the union's
Code of Conduct prevented it disclosing confidential information.