| October 23, 2019 | 1 Comment

The story of two journalists who named suspects in the killing of six people. But the killers weren’t arrested – the journalists were.

Watershed, 6.30pm, November 18, 2019

Film and Q&A with Trevor Birney and Barry McCaffrey

Presented by Bristol NUJ

Watch the trailer: No Stone Unturned

NSU flyer 101019 IMG_1244

Pictured: Barry McCaffrey and Trevor Birney, who were praised by a High Court judge for standing up for the NUJ Code of Conduct

If journalists are targeted for doing their job, what is the impact on democracy?

If police want journalists to name their sources, who will stand up for them?

TWO JOURNALISTS at the centre of one of the biggest freedom-of-speech scandals to hit the UK in recent years are bringing their award-winning film to Bristol.

Trevor Birney and Barry McCaffrey spent years working on the story of the Loughinisland massacre – the  murder of six men in a bar in Northern Ireland in 1994.

The victims, all Catholics, were killed indiscriminately as they watched a World Cup football match on TV. It was clearly a sectarian murder, and blame was laid with members of the Ulster Volunteer Force.

Police promised the relatives of those murdered to leave “no stone unturned” in their search for the three killers. Yet no one has ever been jailed for the massacre.

Birney and McCaffrey, convinced that the names of the suspects were known to the police, worked with filmmaker Alex Gibney (prolific Oscar-winning director of many documentaries including Enron: The Smartest Guys in the Room) to expose to the public what they believed the police knew about the atrocity.

No Stone Unturned (2017), acclaimed as “A scrupulous documentary” by The Guardian, is the result – a film which talks to survivors, relatives, police andmembers of terrorist organisations about the murder investigation which went nowhere.

It includes the names of the three alleged killers, one said to be a British soldier.

Yet when the film was released, police took no action against the men named as murderers. Instead, 100 officers took part in raids on the homes of Bireny and McCaffrey. They were accused of stealing confidential information from the office of the Police Ombudsman for Northern Ireland.

Their computers, thousands of files and phones were sized and they were placed on bail with strict conditions, including having to give notice if they wanted to leave Northern Ireland.

It emerged that no theft had been reported by the police ombudsman – but the investigation into the two journalists lasted almost a year, until on May 31, 2019 three High Court judges ruled that the search warrants against the journalists should never have been issued. A week later, police dropped the case.

Birney and McCaffrey had been backed throughout by the National Union of Journalists, whose assistant general secretary Seamus Dooley said after the hearing: ”

“This is a victory for Trevor and Barry, for the NUJ and for press freedom. The High Court has affirmed the right of journalists to protect confidential sources of information.”

Michelle Stanistreet, NUJ general secretary, said: “This is an important legal victory and we salute all involved in this case. As general secretary I want to acknowledge the wonderful campaigning work of NUJ members and friends across the UK, Ireland and beyond those borders. Faced with a threat to press freedom, from whatever quarter, our members never fail to rise to the challenge.

Nortthern Ireland’s Chief Justice Declan Morgan said the two journalists were acting in “nothing other than a perfectly appropriately way in doing what the NUJ required of them, which was to protect their sources.”

More details:

Paul Breeden
Chair, Bristol NUJ
07811 766072


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Category: Branch News, Events, Local action, National NUJ

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