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‘Deplorable’ attack on Bel Tel journalist condemned

The Belfast Telegraph and the journalists’ union have joined in condemnation of a “deplorable” attack on a working journalist in the city.

Bel Tel staffer Adrian Rutherford was attacked and had his phone stolen by a masked gang while covering Loyalist protests in East Belfast on Monday night.

It is the latest in a series of attacks on journalists and photographers covering the current unrest in the region.

Earlier this week a pipe bomb was left outside the home of a photographer in County Down, while in early December a photographer sustained head and other injuries during rioting at Belfast City Hall.

Belfast Telegraph managing editor Paul Connolly said the incident was “deplorable”.

He told HTFP:  “Adrian is an outstanding journalist who is passionately committed to truthful reporting. We are all shocked and deeply concerned about this attack on a journalist  who was simply doing his job.”

“This is the latest in a line of incidents involving photographers and reporters in Northern Ireland in the past six months and is further evidence of the continuing dangers facing the media in the Province.”

“Not only was it an attack on an individual journalist, it was an assault on freedom of the Press and freedom of expression. It should be condemned by everyone who cherishes democratic freedoms including all our political leaders.”

Séamus Dooley, Irish Secretary of the NUJ  added: “This is an extremely worrying development.

“Attacks of this type against reporters and photographers represent an attack on democracy, in the same way as attacks and threats against elected public representatives strike at the heart of democracy.

“No one disputes the right of citizens of groups to engage in legitimate protests but recent days have been marked by unacceptable behaviour which seeks to intimidate and terrorise innocent people going about their work in the public interest.

“I would appeal to all those in positions of influence to unite against this type of behaviour and to work towards creating a safe environment for all communities.”