Category: Archive

Northern journalist prepares for possible jail term

February 16, 2011

By Staff Reporter

By Anne Cadwallader

BELFAST — Unless the courts allow a last-minute appeal, Belfast journalist Ed Moloney must produce his notes in relation to murdered civil rights lawyer Patrick Finucane to police this week or face a fine and indefinite prison sentence.

Moloney’s lawyers are expected to enter court Wednesday seeking a High Court judicial review of the County Court order that he hand over the interview notes, something Moloney says he cannot, and will not, do.

The National Union of Journalists described the court ruling as another blow to press freedom in Ireland. Amnesty International said any prosecution of Moloney for refusing to hand over his notes could lead to him becoming a "prisoner of conscience."

"It could result in deterring journalists from gathering information about human-rights abuses by government forces, and silencing people willing to provide information about human-rights violations arising from official covert operations because of fear of exposure," Amnesty said.

"Amnesty International is therefore urging the authorities not to enforce the court order against Ed Moloney, thereby ensuring that journalists can carry out their investigative work without fear of imprisonment."

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Amnesty stressed that this case also highlights the authorities’ failure during the last 10 years to carry out an independent and impartial investigation into the murder in February 1989 of Finucane. It repeated its call for a full public inquiry.

The UDA double agent, also an RUC informer, who was interviewed by Moloney in 1990, William Stobie, was arrested in June and charged in connection with Finucane’s murder.

Stobie told police, when arrested, that he had already informed the RUC in advance of Finucane’s killing that a murder was going to be carried out. He also claimed that he had afterward informed the RUC of the whereabouts of the weapons used in the murder and was surprised that no one had acted on his information.

Stobie gave Moloney this confidential information in 1990 but had asked him not to reveal it unless something happened to him. He had suspected his RUC "handlers" were about to betray him to the UDA. After Stobie’s arrest, and with his agreement, Moloney published an article in the Sunday Tribune newspaper detailing some of his allegations 1990. Moloney is Northern Editor for the Dublin-published paper.

In the course of the article, some UDA men were identified only by initials. The police say this is why they want a copy of Moloney’s original notes, to help them corroborate other information about who was involved in the Finucane murder.

In an August court hearing, police witnesses confirmed that Stobie had been interviewed by the RUC on 32 occasions in 1990, during which he had admitted to being the UDA quartermaster who had supplied guns for Finucane’s murder and had later disposed of one of the murder weapons.

Commenting on the case, Moloney said: "The issues are very simple. If I give up these notes, I may as well quit as a journalist. The betrayal of trust involved would mean that nobody could trust me . . . not to pass on information to the police given to me in confidence.

"This move against me is an effective attempt to deprive me of my livelihood but it also has serious negative implications for journalists everywhere in Ireland. If this attempt to force me to cross the divide between reporting and evidence gathering for the police is successful, then no journalist is safe."

Meanwhile, a demonstration is being organized on Moloney’s behalf outside the British Consulate, Third Avenue and 51st Street in Manhattan, Thursday, Sept. 9, at noon. What is being described by organizers as a "vigil" is scheduled to last for one hour and will be carried out by journalists opposed to the court proceedings against Moloney.

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