Kingsmill coro­ner asks loy­al­ist blog­ger to hand over jour­nal­is­tic files

Belfast Telegraph - - NEWS - BY DAVID YOUNG, PA

A LOY­AL­IST ac­tivist who claims po­lice un­law­fully seized his jour­nal­is­tic ma­te­rial linked to the Kingsmill mas­sacre has now re­ceived a re­quest for the files from the coro­ner in­ves­ti­gat­ing the killings.

The Coro­ners’ Ser­vice has writ­ten to Jamie Bryson days be­fore he is due in Belfast High Court for a case chal­leng­ing whether of­fi­cers who were in­ves­ti­gat­ing an al­leged door staff li­cens­ing breach had the right to take un­re­lated doc­u­ments he con­tends are cov­ered by jour­nal­is­tic priv­i­lege.

Mr Bryson, a blog­ger and com­men­ta­tor who ed­its a web­site called Union­ist Voice, is a tem­po­rary free­lance mem­ber of the Na­tional Union of Jour­nal­ists (NUJ). He has used the web­site to pub­lish ar­ti­cles about the Kingsmill mur­ders.

The coro­ner’s re­quest for sight of Mr Bryson’s source ma­te­rial — doc­u­ments he says were taken by po­lice — comes amid an on­go­ing in­quest into the no­to­ri­ous sec­tar­ian out­rage that saw 10 Protes­tant work­men lined up and shot dead by repub­li­can paramil­i­taries in Jan­uary 1976.

In the ju­di­cial re­view hear­ing on Wed­nes­day, Mr Bryson will seek to chal­lenge the le­gal­ity of the war­rant used by the PSNI to seize the ma­te­rial.

The PSNI was ex­e­cut­ing the war­rant on be­half of the Se­cu­rity In­dus­try Au­thor­ity (SIA) — the statu­tory or­gan­i­sa­tion re­spon­si­ble for reg­u­lat­ing the pri­vate se­cu­rity in­dus­try in the UK.

Mr Bryson was ar­rested dur­ing Au­gust’s raid and later re­leased with­out charge. The in­ves­ti­ga­tion into an al­leged of­fence of un­law­fully sup­ply­ing door staff con­tin­ues. He de­nies any wrong­do­ing.

With con­tro­versy around the 29-year-old’s mem­ber­ship of the NUJ — the lo­cal branch in Belfast op­posed the union’s de­ci­sion to ad­mit him — the High Court case is also likely to fo­cus on what de­fines a jour­nal­ist and whether he is en­ti­tled to in­voke jour­nal­is­tic priv­i­lege in the eyes of the law.

Mr Bryson said he would al­ways do any­thing pos­si­ble to as­sist the Kingsmill fam­i­lies, but he ex­pressed con­cern at the re­quest for his pa­pers.

“If I were to pro­vide this doc­u­men­ta­tion to the coro­ner, then it would no longer be ma­te­rial held for the pur­poses of jour­nal­ism and the PSNI could then re­tain ma­te­rial which they should never have in the first place as I would have waived jour­nal­is­tic priv­i­lege by pro­vid­ing ma­te­rial held in con­fi­dence to a third party,” he said.

Mr Bryson’s lawyers will ar­gue that the war­rant to seize ma­te­rial should have been granted by a county court judge, rather than a lay mag­is­trate — as they will claim po­lice should have known jour­nal­is­tic ma­te­rial would have been on site.

The loy­al­ist cam­paigner says ma­te­rial taken by po­lice also in­cludes pa­pers on the sale by the Repub­lic’s Na­tional As­sets Man­age­ment Agency (Nama) of its North­ern Ire­land port­fo­lio; the 1989 IRA mur­ders of se­nior RUC of­fi­cers Chief Su­per­in­ten­dent Harry Breen and Su­per­in­ten­dent Bob Buchanan; the ‘On the Runs’ con­tro­versy, and al­le­ga­tions around the ex­ploita­tion of the Roma com­mu­nity in south Belfast.

“I can’t for the life of me un­der­stand what files from 1976 or files re­lat­ing to Nama or the Kingsmill mas­sacre or the mur­der of RUC of­fi­cers has got to do with in­ves­ti­gat­ing door su­per­vi­sors — it is quite sim­ply be­yond me. It was a fish­ing ex­pe­di­tion,” he said.

Mr Bryson in­sists he is en­ti­tled to the same pro­tec­tions as any jour­nal­ist work­ing for the main­stream me­dia and said his case could have “ram­i­fi­ca­tions” for the wider jour­nal­is­tic pro­fes­sion.

“If the PSNI get a judg­ment in their favour whereby they can con­trive some type of in­ves­ti­ga­tion to get through the door, but while they are still there they can scoop up a whole load of jour­nal­is­tic ma­te­rial, if there is con­tentious is­sues with jour­nal­ists they can sim­ply come in un­der the aus­pices of some­thing else and take all their com­put­ers and all their notes with­out the ju­di­cial over­sight of hav­ing to go to a county court judge,” he said.

In re­la­tion to Mr Bryson’s claims, the PSNI said it would not com­ment on named in­di­vid­u­als.

❝ In pro­vid­ing this to the coro­ner it would no longer be ma­te­rial held for the pur­poses of jour­nal­ism

Loy­al­ist blog­gerJamie Bryson

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