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Cross-party group launched to tackle threats against journalists

Matthew O'TooleA new cross-party group has been set up to tackle threats against journalists in Northern Ireland.

The Press Freedom and Media Sustainability All-Party Group has been formed by Members of the Legislative Assembly at Stormont with support from the National Union of Journalists.

The group’s remit will include the threats and harassment targeted at journalists and the severe economic impact of the global health pandemic on the viability and sustainability of local media.

Members include those representing Alliance, Democratic Unionist Party, Green, People Before Profit, Social Democratic and Labour Party and Ulster Unionist Party.

SDLP MLA Matthew O’Toole, pictured, chair of the group, said: “I am very pleased to be chairing the APG on press freedom and media sustainability. Threats of violence should never be accepted ‘as part of the job’ of a journalist.

“We are looking forward to working closely with the NUJ to help protect a free press – one of the most fundamental elements of a free society. A free press also means a viable, sustainable local media supporting communities, local economies and local democracy.

“The existing crisis facing media outlets has been hugely exacerbated by the economic impact of the pandemic. This APG will be keen to explore radical ideas to make our local media sustainable.”

Seamus Dooley, NUJ assistant general secretary, added: “We congratulate the MLAs for setting up this group as a welcome and positive initiative, the media in Northern Ireland face a significant range of current challenges and we are more likely to tackle those challenges if we work together with all stakeholders involved.

“We hope the group will work to secure increasing safety and protections for our members at work and adopt the key recommendations in the NUJ’s News Recovery Plan that will help to secure a better future for the media industry that continues to serve the public good.

“As a trade union the NUJ is not aligned to any political party and we look forward to positive engagement with all members of the Assembly on an ongoing basis.”