The BBC, UTV and ITN have been ordered to hand over footage of disturbances during the Apprentice Boys parade in Londonderry in August – a move condemned as a ‘dangerous ruling’by the NUJ.
According to a BBC report, judge Piers Grant said he was satisfied that footage could contain relevant evidence, even though a barrister for the news organisations argued the application could pose a ‘real and present threat”.
The disturbances on 13 August saw vehicles hijacked and pipe bombs thrown at police.
Judge Grant said he was not satisfied that handing over of unbroadcast material would put journalists at risk, claiming there was ‘no evidence this had happened in the past”.
NUJ Irish secretary SÃ©amus Dooley commented: ‘The role of media organisation is to cover and report events. It is not the function of the media organisation to supply footage to the police. There was a strong police presence in Derry during the parade and the PSNI clearly have material gathered by the police and security forces which could be relied upon.
“It is difficult to imagine what other material could be in the possession of these media organisations. The PSNI also have full access to the broadcast material. In the circumstances the insistence on securing a court order for the handover of other material is both unnecessary and disturbing.”
“Judge Grant’s comments have alarmed many journalists, who now feel that they will be put at risk when covering demonstrations. The NUJ is calling on media organisations to appeal this order and to take a strong, united stage against yet another blow to media freedom.’
NUJ general secretary Michelle Stanistreet said this was a ‘dangerous ruling’which undermines journalists’ independence by ‘making them instruments of the state’and potential targets for demonstrators.