Suzanne Breen: 'I'll go to jail rather than give up source'

IRA sources row journalist Suzanne Breen said last night she will go to prison rather give up her phone, notebooks and computer records to police.

Breen was speaking at a press conference in London organised by the National Union of Journalists to highlight her case, which the union said presents a major threat to press freedom in the UK.

Sunday Tribune Northern Ireland editor Breen is due to appear at court in Belfast again on Friday to face a production order brought by the Police Service of Northern Ireland under the Terrorism Act 2000.

The case is expected to be adjourned on Friday to give Breen’s legal team more time to prepare their case.

If Breen continues to resist the production order she could spend between six months and five years in jail.

Despite the fact that she has an 14-month-old daughter, she explained last night that jail would be preferable to giving up her source.

She said she would not be handing over her notes to the police for two reasons.

“I believe my life would be in danger from the Real IRA if I was to do so,” Breen said.

“This is an organisation which sees people as collaborators for delivering pizzas. I don’t know what they would make of a journalist who handed over all her materials to the police.

“I could remain in Northern Ireland and wait for a sledgehammer to come through my door, or I could enter a witness protection scheme and be unable to work as a journalist again in Britain.”

The police action relates to a phone call Breen received from a member of the Real IRA claiming responsibility for shooting dead two soldiers at the Massereene army barracks in Antrim on 8 March.

The police demands also relate to an interview Breen conducted with a representative from the Real IRA in which they discussed the murder of MI5 informant Denis Donaldson.

International Federation of Journalists general secretary Aidan White was due to raise Breen’s case before the European Union council of ministers today.

Among those backing Breen is freelance journalist Shiv Malik – who was forced to hand over his notes of interviews with a suspected terrorist to Greater Manchester Police last year.

He fought the case to the high court after being served with a similar order under the same anti-terror legislation.

Channel 4 News chief correspondent Alex Thomson is also supporting Breen’s case.

In a message of support read out at last night’s meeting he said: “Forcing journalists to reveal their sources raises far more problems than any police inquiry.

“It may be the Real IRA this year, but next year it will be whistleblowers across the country in our schools, hospitals, factories and who knows where.

“Journalism would be dead in the water.”

He added: “There will be many more cases and the response must always be the same.

“The public interest in the right of people to approach journalists confidentially must always outweigh the short term needs of the state.”

NUJ deputy general secretary Michelle Stanistreet said: “It is not the job of a journalist to act as a detective or police informer.

“We can’t serve the public interest if our role is confused with that of the police.”

The NUJ has urged all journalists to sign a petition supporting Breen in her sources fight. So far about 1,500 people done so.

You can sign the Suzanne Breen petition at this link.

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