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The Northern Ireland experience

NORTHERN Ireland NUJ branches are hosting an NUJ Journalist Safety Conference - the Northern Ireland Experience.

Conference organiser Kevin Cooper told the Freelance that the conference aims to look at the experiences of "journalists who lived and worked in Northern Ireland who witnessed or experienced trauma." The conference will use outside facilitators, and Kevin hopes that "journalists will tell and share their story, pass on learning and hopefully make recommendations to improve the way newsgathering is done for the future. We hope to get a greater understanding of the experience of journalists who worked through 40 years of conflict. With developments in England and the recent riots and conflict in the Middle East we believe the conferences timely."

The conference is in memory of murdered journalist and NUJ Belfast and District Branch Secretary Martin O'Hagan, who was killed in September 2001.

Maurice Neill, coordinator for journalism at Belfast Metropolitan College, said, "During the Troubles journalists were daily at the front line of conflict. Martin O'Hagan was murdered. Jim Campbell escaped a gun attack. Peter Somersett was hit in the face with a plastic bullet, Cyril Cain in the leg. Alan Lewis was struck by baton rounds twice on the same day and escaped a booby trap bomb, which killed police officers."

Many more reporters and photographers, Maurice said, "bear unseen scars after witnessing carnage at first hand or are still under threat from paramilitaries. A BBC television reporter broke down in tears trying to describe what he witnessed on Bloody Friday in 1972. Some of my former colleagues still carry personal protection weapons in fear of their lives. This conference is long overdue. I hope it will allow those who endured much to bring us the shocking truth of what happened here an opportunity to record and share their stories, find closure and provide guidance for the next generation of journalists."

The emphasis will be on delegates who've had lived experience of conflict in relation to the work as a journalist. The focus of the conference will be Northern Ireland, but "not necessarily exclusively" says Kevin.

London Freelance Branch, the NUJ's Northern Ireland branches and the NUJ National Executive Council have helped fund the conference.

The Journalist Safety Conference - the Northern Ireland Experience is on Friday 30 September at NICVA, 61 Duncairn Gardens, Belfast BT15 2GB. For a registration form, please contact Kevin Cooper by email: photoline@supanet.com.

Because of the sensitivity of the issues involved, reporting of the conference will be under the strictly-applied Chatham House Rule (participants or their affiliations not to be identified). The Freelance hopes to carry a report on the Journalist Safety Conference in a future issue.

Last modified: 07 Sept 2011 - © 2011 contributors
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