New Stormont group to defend freedom of the press

Sun, 20/12/2020 - 13:18 -- Editor

SDLP Foyle MLA Sinéad McLaughlin is secretary of a new all party group at the Northern Ireland Assembly established to defend press freedom and the sustainability of the media industry in Northern Ireland.  She jointly established the group with fellow SDLP MLA Matthew O'Toole, who becomes chair. Vice chair is former UUP leader and UTV presenter Mike Nesbitt. The group has been formed in response to threats made against journalists in the North from paramilitary groups. McLaughlin said: "I am very pleased to be supporting the establishment of the APG on press freedom. Threats against journalists have no place in a free society and certainly no place in a post-conflict society. Matthew and I met with the National Union of Journalists recently, pledging our commitment to their campaign to have threats against journalists lifted. It is essential that we continue to have a sustainable and viable media industry in the North." Matthew O'Toole, chair of the Press Freedom and Media Sustainability APG, said: "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, said: "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." The MLAs elected were:

  • Chair - Matthew O’Toole, SDLP MLA
  • Vice-chair - Mike Nesbitt, UUP MLA
  • Secretary - Sinead McLaughlin, SDLP MLA
  • Treasurer - Emma Rogan, SF MLA

Other members of the group include:

  • Maurice Bradley, DUP MLA
  • Andrew Muir, Alliance MLA
  • Stewart Dickson, Alliance MLA
  • Rachel Woods, Green MLA
  • Patsy McGlone, SDLP MLA
  • Pat Catney, SDLP MLA
  • Gerry Carroll, PBP MLA