Northern Ireland

Belfast-based journalist 'in UDA death threat'

NUJ Irish secretary Seamus Dooley
Image caption NUJ Irish secretary Seamus Dooley said the journalist had received other threats

Loyalist paramilitaries have issued a death threat against a Belfast-based journalist, the National Union of Journalists (NUJ) has said.

The union said the threat was made by the Ulster Defence Association (UDA).

The journalist's name has not been released but the NUJ has appealed to anyone with influence with the group to have the threat withdrawn.

The UDA said it "categorically denied any threats inferred or otherwise directed towards a journalist".

Graffiti, including the journalist's name and mobile telephone number, has appeared in some areas.

The police said they could not comment on the security of individuals.

Seamus Dooley, Irish secretary of the NUJ, said the threat, made by telephone on Saturday, was not the first issued to the journalist.

Mr Dooley said the journalist had been writing about the UDA and he believed this was the reason the person was targeted.

In a statement issued on Monday, the UDA said it "respected the freedom of the press and the right of all journalists to carry out and pursue their profession free from intimidation or threat".

Ulster Unionist leader Mike Nesbitt is a former television journalist. He said the threat was "totally unacceptable and must be condemned unequivocally".

'Condemned unequivocally'

He called on the UDA leadership to state if the threat was officially sanctioned by the organisation and if so, "to withdraw it and to make clear its opposition to such menaces".

"A free press is the cornerstone of any democracy and any threat to a journalist is totally unacceptable and must be condemned unequivocally," Mr Nesbitt said.

"No-one is above public scrutiny and when anyone believes that media reporting becomes inaccurate, misleading or distorted, there are mechanisms in place to seek redress. Threatening murder offers no vision for the future."

The UDA is the largest of Northern Ireland's paramilitary groups.

It announced a ceasefire in October 1994 but in following years underwent a series of feuds and splits.

Investigative journalists in Northern Ireland were frequently threatened by paramilitaries during the Troubles.

Sunday World journalist Martin O'Hagan was shot dead in September 2001 by the loyalist splinter group, the Loyalist Volunteer Force.

His colleague, Jim Campbell, who was then the newspaper's northern editor, was seriously wounded when he was shot by the Ulster Volunteer Force in 1984.