Police chief dragged into BBC terrorism row

The Chief Constable of Northern Ireland Hugh Orde has been dragged into criticism of the BBC made in Parliament by a Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) MP, who said Orde shared concerns the organisation was ‘promoting terrorism’ahead of political stability in the province.

The National Union of Journalists has strongly condemned the DUP MP for the ‘promoting terrorism’accusation.

Sammy Wilson made the claim during a House of Commons speech on the recent arrest of four BBC journalists by the Irish police in Donegal. They were questioned and released without charge.

It is believed they were researching a Panorama special marking the 10th anniversary of the Good Friday Agreement. The four have received death threats from dissident republican in connection with the incident.

Three men held with the journalists in an armed roadblock just before Easter were also released without charge, but four other men, all from Derry city, close to the Irish border, were arrested the next day by police, as they crossed into Donegal, and have now been charged with Real IRA membership in a special no-jury court and remanded in custody.

NUJ General Secretary Jeremy Dear said: ‘Any comments which suggest that reporters carrying out their duties are guilty of promoting terrorism must be condemned. This type of comment could put the lives of working journalists at risk. Public representatives should be aware that loose talk and inflammatory language can have serious consequences.

‘The fact is that the four BBC staff were arrested while on an official assignment carried out in accordance with BBC guidelines and with official approval. BBC staff in Northern Ireland continue to report on all aspects of Northern Ireland, including political and economic developments. The BBC cannot selectively report on political developments or ignore the activities of those opposed to the peace process.’

A BBC Northern Ireland spokesperson said: ‘We have made clear from the outset, our four journalists were working with the full authority of the BBC in compliance with strict editorial guidelines, which include the protection of sources.”

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