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Solidarity with journalists under attack around the world

IT'S EASY TO feel guilty at not keeping up with the apparently-increasing flow of calls for solidarity with journalists in dire straits around the world. We at the Freelance often feel that way, anyway. But once we look it's not all a litany of despair: there are things you and your union can do.

Lyra McKee

This is the photo that Lyra McKee supplied to Forbes magazine when it declared her one of its 30 under 30 in media in 2016.

In the UK, the NUJ remains committed to pressing to bring the killers of Lyra McKee to justice. Lyra was killed on the night of 18 April 2019 while covering rioting in Derry, Northern Ireland. In February 2020 four men were arrested in connection with Lyra's killing and the following day a 52-year-old man was charged. We marked the first anniversary of her killing with #WeStandWithLyra events around these islands.

Investigations continue. On 22 February this year, 28-year-old Niall Sheerin, who is charged with possessing the firearm used in the murder, had a bail application refused. A Lyra McKee Investigative Training Bursary Scheme was launched this month.

More journalists in Northern Ireland have been threatened this month. The NUJ on 13 February condemned graffiti in East Belfast featuring the name of Sunday World journalist Patricia Devlin and a depiction of rifle sight cross-hairs. On 9 February it, alongside the International Federation of Journalists, extended support and solidarity to an unnamed journalist working on a BBC Panorama programme on connections between Irish gangsters and boxing. And on 18 February NUJ Belfast Branch chair Robin Wilson declared that graffiti claiming that one "Alison Moris" was an "MI5 agent" is "yet another example of journalists suffering totally unacceptable intimidation". Alison Morris, Security Correspondent with The Irish News, Tweeted: "If anyone knows an Alison Moris tell her that her name is on a wall in Rosapenna Street - state of that wouldn’t you be scundered".

We have not forgotten Sunday World reporter Martin O'Hagan, killed in Lurgan on 28 September 2001. Last September the NUJ reminded the British and Irish governments not to turn a blind eye to the lack of justice here. It is believed that security services know who killed Martin.

Smaller-scale harassment

Journalists elsewhere in the UK have suffered smaller-scale harassment. With the NUJ's support, photographer Andy Aitchison got charges dropped after he was arrested on suspicion of criminal damage while photographing a protest outside Napier Barracks, the military camp in Folkestone, Kent used to accommodate hundreds of asylum seekers. Andy will address the meeting of London Freelance Branch. Please tell us about any interactions you have with police here.

Elsewhere in Europe...

The European Federation of Journalists is exercised by events in Belarus. A meeting this week heard of forms of harassment of the Belarus Journalists' Association that are worthy of the novelist Franz Kafka. On 16 February its office was raided. One of the objects taken by the state was the Association's "seal" - without which it cannot file accounts. Charges for failing to file accounts are expected. After the raid and the freezing of its bank account it will be difficult to hold the Annual General Meeting required by law. Charges for failing to hold an Annual General Meeting are expected.

A solidarity meeting was held online on 18 February. Actions in support of Belarusian colleagues under discussion include an "adopt a journalist" scheme - if this can be done without further endangering the journalists. Watch this space.

5 March 2021

The European Federation of Journalists has issued a call to write letters to nine journalists who are imprisoned in Belarus, with addresses.

...and worldwide

There are plenty of journalists in need of adoption elsewhere. Watch the International Federation of Journalists news page - where you will currently see news of four Yemeni journalists appealing death sentences; an assault on a Kosovan Investigative journalist; criminal investigations against two journalists in Jammu and Kashmir; a clampdown on communications in Myanmar; and, sadly, more. Cambridge Branch of the NUJ Tweets that it has taken up the last of these.

On the bright side for the IFJ campaign against "impunity" for attacks on journalists, on 24 February Vincent Muscat, one of the three presumed murderers of Maltese journalist Daphne Caruana Galizia, was sentenced to 15 years in jail after pleading guilty. Whether those who ultimately ordered the murder are brought to trial remains to be seen.