Northern Ireland Sky News Press Association

Northern Ireland news organisations claims police are putting journalists at risk

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By The Drum Team | Editorial

August 18, 2011 | 3 min read

Editors in Northern Ireland have written to Chief Constable Matt Baggott saying that demands to view riots footage risks the safety of staff.

The letter was compiled by the managing director of UTV Television Micheal Wilson on behalf of BBC Northern Ireland, the Press Association, Sky News, The Irish News, The Belfast Telegraph and The News Letter. It was also backed by the National Union of Journalists (NUJ) and the Broadcasting Entertainment Cinematograph and Technicians Union (Bectu).

The letter said "The undersigned have a genuine fear that terrorists and rioters will target the media whom they perceive to be evidence gatherers for the state, however involuntary that role might be.

"None of the undersigned have any desire to obstruct legitimate evidence gathering or policing, nor do anything that would harm the prosecution process or would endanger public safety.

"However, we do believe that senior officers within the PSNI (Police Service of Northern Ireland) need to understand the damage that the increased frequency and broader scope of such applications does to the public perception of news organisations as being independent and impartial and, therefore, to the safety of our staff."

The letter also said "Where an application for a production order is necessary, this should be limited to what is necessary and proportionate in the circumstances, and should not be a wide ranging request seeking many hours of footage from a number of media organisations, which is akin to a fishing expedition. "

It was requested that the PSNI implement a new policy stating that they will review and rely upon its own material in evidence first before resorting to gathering media which has been taken for news purposes.

The groups offered to meet the Chief Constable to debate the issues and develop a new protocol.

Northern Ireland Sky News Press Association

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