Catch Martin’s killers, whoever they are

The murder of journalist Martin O'Hagan must be kept in the public eye, not just to bring his killers to justice but to protect other journalists working in Northern Ireland, NUJ member Kevin Cooper told a meeting organised by Reporters without Borders (RSF-UK) at NUJ headquarters on 14 March. "We are not special, but journalism is special," he said.

Martin O'Hagan was the first journalist killed in Northern Ireland for doing their job since the Troubles began. "Unless you have a free and open press, then democratic institutions are damaged. Therefore it is in the public interest that we shout and campaign about it." The danger was that once paramilitaries have crossed the line of killing one journalist, they would find it easier to kill again. Currently three journalists were under threat in Northern Ireland.

Maggie Beirne of the Northern Ireland human rights campaign CAJ (Committee on the Administration of Justice) said the organisation had opened a file on Martin O'Hagan and was following the police investigation closely. It was crucial to keep "hammering away" so that the pressure was on the police to get results. CAJ had been surprised at the much lower press profile given to the killing of Martin O'Hagan than of Dublin based crime reporter Veronica Guerin.

While the meeting heard about rumours that the investigation was going slow because one of those involved in the killings may be an informer, Kevin Cooper warned against feeding the rumour mill. If anyone had information they should give it to the police, subject to the Code of Conduct with particular reference to protecting journalistic sources, as well as talking to CAJ.

RSF has recently secured European funding to employ international lawyers in cases where murders of journalists have gone unpunished. Veronica Forwood of RSF-UK said the Damocles project had already taken up the case of Ukrainian Georgy Gongadze and might look at Martin O'Hagan's murder if the police investigation got nowhere.

  • A meeting has been arranged for April 9 with Northern Ireland Security Minister Jane Kennedy to discuss progress of the investigation and the threats to other NUJ members.
Last modified: 21 March 2002 - © 2002 contributors
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