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British TV Film Turnover to Police Worries Journalists

March 25, 1988|From Reuters

LONDON — A decision by two British television networks to give to police the television film of an Irish Republican Army funeral at which two British soldiers were killed has raised fears for journalists' safety in Northern Ireland.

"If they are seen to be going to these places and reporting these events merely to provide the police with what they receive, they will become targets of the people and events they are reporting," Harry Conroy, general secretary of the National Union of Journalists, said Thursday.

The British Broadcasting Corp. and Independent Television News turned over untransmitted videotapes of Saturday's funeral in Belfast after police threatened news executives with arrest under anti-terrorist regulations.

The Irish network RTE followed suit Thursday after police called at its Belfast office, a spokesman said.

"We are going to continue to send people (to Northern Ireland)--with considerable anxiety," said Colin Morris, the BBC's controller for the province.

A television news source said the footage showed stewards of Sinn Fein, the IRA's legal political wing, putting their hands in front of camera lenses as the mob dragged away the two soldiers who had blundered into the funeral cortege.

"We explained that we were not in any way near the scene of the actual murders," Morris said on BBC television. "They said they had reason to believe we had information which would be relevant to the investigation of the murder of the two soldiers."

In Belfast, a journalist from a foreign television network said reporters and cameramen there were now reluctant to venture into its Catholic ghettos unless invited by Sinn Fein.

On Wednesday, before the footage was given to police, BBC cameramen were threatened by a Protestant crowd while covering a memorial service near Belfast for the two soldiers. The BBC crew left the area after police said they could not guarantee their safety.

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