PSNI Seize Derry Journalist's Phone in Dissident Probe

picador

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The PSNI have been criticised by the National Union of Journalists after its officers, acting on foot of a warrant, seized a phone belonging to Derry journalist Eamonn McDermott. Mr McDermott, a former republican prisoner, frequently writes about dissident paramilitaries for the Derry Journal and other publications.

BBC News - NUJ criticises PSNI seizing Derry journalist's phone

It seems almost certain that the phone seizure relates to Mr McDermott's work on dissident republicans. Last year police took fellow journalist Suzanne Breen to court in an unsuccessful attempt to force her to reveal her dissident sources. This time they went to the trouble of getting a warrant first.

Does the seizure of Mr McDermott's phone (and thus the vital contact information essential to his job) represent an unacceptable attack on press freedom - or is it a necessary step in the battle against violent extremism?

Given the monitoring capabilities of GCHQ Cheltenham I feel that the seizure of any journalist's phone is totally unnecessary.
 
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LeDroit

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Most necessary. Every citizen should be doing everything they can to eliminate this scourge. If the peace loving people of this country work together we can defeat the violence loving among us.
 

Sync

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Mmmm. Interesting one. Obviously the police have done nothing wrong as they're acting on a valid warrant, but I'm curious as to what they can get from the phone that they can't get from traces and phone records.

We'll see how it develops, perhaps the PSNI were able to convince a judge that Mr McDermott had stepped over a line into actually aiding the terrorists, but no one should be under the impression that this isn't a big story in the context of journalistic freedom in the UK.
 

picador

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It may be a total coincidence but leading Derry 32 CSM member Gary Donnelly is currently being questioned by police.
 

picador

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Mmmm. Interesting one. Obviously the police have done nothing wrong as they're acting on a valid warrant, but I'm curious as to what they can get from the phone that they can't get from traces and phone records.

We'll see how it develops, perhaps the PSNI were able to convince a judge that Mr McDermott had stepped over a line into actually aiding the terrorists, but no one should be under the impression that this isn't a big story in the context of journalistic freedom in the UK.
It's important to emphasise that McDermott was not arrested.
 

Sync

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There's no reason for them to arrest him at this juncture, there's no accusation of wrongdoing against him.
 

picador

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There's no reason for them to arrest him at this juncture, there's no accusation of wrongdoing against him.
That's why I made sure to point that out. Your last post suggested that there might be wrongdoing on his part. And 'at this juncture' is a little unfortunate as well. Sorry, but the man's livelihood is potentially at stake.
 

Sync

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Wrongdoing may well be suspected. This is a huge step in the context of UK journalism, I can't think of an occasion where a reporters phone has been seized like this.

If it were to emerge that the judge approved this warrant simply because they wanted to see who McDermott was speaking with, and that it wasn't linked to something more serious, then I'd view that as a pretty severe attack on British press journalism. For instance, it's been suggested on BBC that it's linked to a bomb from last year. If that were the case, and no link is suspected between the journalist and the terrorists then this seems like nothing more than an effort to damage journalistic integrity.
 
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Amach na Casca

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The RUC/PSNI making new enemies for themselves, not that they need any more. I'm sure they can look forward to some glorious write-ups in the near future. :p
 

jdaly

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It may be a total coincidence but leading Derry 32 CSM member Gary Donnelly is currently being questioned by police.
Suppose a journalist recieved either a bomb warning or a claim of responsibility from an organisiation and further suppose that the psni access his phone, they can then point the finger at a person known as a 'dissident' who contacted the journalist anytime close to the time in question. Chances of it standing up in court are very slim but it would hold a person for a few months at least.
Going to makes the life of journalsits who deal with these issues much more difficult. People who speak to them are not going to be as willing now. Also poses serious questions about the 'reformed' nature of the psni.
 

Sync

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The PSNI have done absolutely nothing wrong here. They've applied for a warrant. That warrant was approved. They then lawfully execute that warrant. If there's an issue, then it's with the judge who approved it. The only way the PSNI have done something wrong is if they misled the judge when they applied for it.
 

Young Ned

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Regardless of the legality of this issue, you can bet it will have a chilling effect on the ability of journalists to make necessary contacts to report on these sorts of stories. If there's not an extremely compelling reason for doing what they've done, I can't see how it will be worth the consequences.
 

Jakey

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Good. I hope they seize some more phones. It might a) Help to lock up people who think leaving bombs in streets where children are playing is okay; and b) Help to prevent journalists acting as conduits for republican propaganda.
 

Young Ned

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Good. I hope they seize some more phones. It might a) Help to lock up people who think leaving bombs in streets where children are playing is okay; and b) Help to prevent journalists acting as conduits for republican propaganda.
How? What will the handset give them that the phone records did not?
 

Ó Donnchadha

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A media cannot be free, if they cannot protect their sources. A right to free speech and a free press are important aspects of a free democracy. Anything else is a slippery slope.
 

Cruimh

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A media cannot be free, if they cannot protect their sources. A right to free speech and a free press are important aspects of a free democracy. Anything else is a slippery slope.
I'll bet you would be singing a different song if this was a Muslim Journalist known to have been in touch with Bin Ladin or one of his merry men ...
 

British Citizen

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A media cannot be free, if they cannot protect their sources. A right to free speech and a free press are important aspects of a free democracy. Anything else is a slippery slope.
Is this guy an actual professional journalist who covers a wide variety of topics?

Or is he just a mouthpiece for criminal catholic gangs who only appears when it's a story about the CIRA/RIRA/ONH?
 


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