Four BBC journalists released without charge in Real IRA investigation

Four BBC journalists investigating the Real IRA have been released without charge, according to the Irish police

The BBC journalists were among 11 men yesterday arrested by Irish police probing paramilitary activity.

All 11 are being questioned by detectives at three garda stations in Co Donegal, close to the border with Northern Ireland.

The BBC said the journalists were working on a Northern Ireland current affairs investigation and had full editorial authority under the Corporation’s guidelines.

They are being held under Section 30 of the Offences Against the State Act and can be kept in custody for up to 72 hours.

“We can confirm that some of those arrested this morning in Co Donegal were BBC journalists,” a BBC spokeswoman said.

“They were working on a BBC Northern Ireland current affairs investigation and had full editorial authorisation under the BBC’s guidelines.

“The other parties present were fully aware that they were with BBC journalists,” she said.

Two of those arrested are being held at Burnfoot garda station, six at Letterkenny and three at Milford.

A garda spokeswoman said: “The arrests relate to ongoing investigations into paramilitary activity.”

The journalists were probing Real IRA activity in the area for BBC’s Spotlight programme, which also produces material for Panorama.

The Real IRA was born out of a split in the mainstream Provisional movement in October 1997.

It was behind the worst single atrocity of over 30 years of violence in Northern Ireland when a car bomb went off in Omagh, Co Tyrone, in August 1998 killing 29 people.

It is also believed responsible for a number of attacks in London, including one on MI6 headquarters in 2000.

The group also claimed responsibility for the shooting of two police officers in counties Tyrone and Derry last November, which detectives are treating as attempted murder.

It is understood the BBC has provided legal representation for their journalists.

National Union of Journalists (NUJ) Irish Secretary Seamus Dooley confirmed the men were NUJ members.

“We would be confident that the BBC would uphold the right of their journalists to protect confidential sources of information,” he said.

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