Last Updated: Tuesday, 21 November 2017, 15:02 GMT

Reporters Without Borders Annual Report 2003 - United Kingdom

Publisher Reporters Without Borders
Publication Date 2003
Cite as Reporters Without Borders, Reporters Without Borders Annual Report 2003 - United Kingdom, 2003, available at: [accessed 22 November 2017]
DisclaimerThis is not a UNHCR publication. UNHCR is not responsible for, nor does it necessarily endorse, its content. Any views expressed are solely those of the author or publisher and do not necessarily reflect those of UNHCR, the United Nations or its Member States.

Attacks on the protection of journalistic sources increased. The enquiry continued into the 2001 murder of Northern Ireland journalist Martin O'Hagan, of the Irish paper Sunday World. Eight people have been questioned but none charged.

A journalist arrested

Photographer Stalingrad O'Neill, who is also a local official of the National Union of Journalists (NUJ), was held for questioning for two hours by the anti-terrorist squad as he returned to Birmingham from Belfast on 2 August. His equipment was seized and personal papers photocopied.

Pressure and obstruction

Lena Ferguson, a senior British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) editor in Northern Ireland, and Alex Thomson, a Channel 4 presenter, refused on 2 May to reveal their sources of information to a legal enquiry in Londonderry (Northern Ireland) into the 1972 "Bloody Sunday" shootings.

The court had given them two weeks to reveal the names of the British soldiers they had interviewed in 1997 in exchange for anonymity. The two journalists were sent before the High Court in Belfast for contempt of court. The case has not been heard by the end of the year. Two other journalists, Peter Taylor, of the BBC and the TV network ITN, and Derek Humphry, of The Sunday Times, also refused to reveal their paramilitary sources to the enquiry.

The daily newspapers The Financial Times, The Times, The Guardian and The Independent, as well as the Reuters news agency, which were ordered in 2001 to hand over to police a document sent to them anonymously, said on 12 July they would appeal to the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) on grounds that the order violated freedom of expression and the right to protect sources. They formally lodged their complaint on 19 December.

Using the anonymous document, they had published stories that appear to have caused the share price of the firm Interbrew to fall. The five media outlets turned to the ECHR after exhausting all legal possibilities in the UK when the final court of appeal, the House of Lords, refused to hear the case.

Police in Cambridge sent questionnaires on 12 September to all 400 or so journalists who had covered the murder of two little girls, Holly and Jessica, from the nearby village of Soham, asking them for information that might help the enquiry. The questionnaire noted that police could force them to provide it. Some journalists voluntarily gave information but nobody was in fact forced to by the end of the year.

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