These threats are a despicable attempt to intimidate a journalist from doing her job and constitute an attack on freedom of the press ... We stand with Patricia Devlin and all journalists in Northern Ireland forced to work in a climate of fear - Patrick Corrigan, Amnesty International.
Patricia Devlin is a beleaguered journalist who has not been getting the support she has a right to expect and her colleagues a duty to provide. She is constantly threatened by UDA thugs, a result of her reporting which has kept the spotlight firmly fixed on the fetid pondlife that relies on murkiness to survive and prosper. The intensity of the hostility directed her way was captured in one twelve hour period in which she received two death threats. At times the threats have been so specific that she has even been warned about the location where her would-be killers undertook to murder her.
I do my job to help others, to give people a voice - many of the people I speak to are too scared to speak out because they've been intimidated and attacked. I won't be giving up my job because it does make a difference and my worry is that Friday's threat was not only a threat to me but it was a threat to all media workers. The fact that these people are targeting journalists who are giving a voice to these people who are being intimidated, it's scary because if we don't have journalists to do that, who do we have? Unfortunately it's escalated and now we're seeing my name on walls in east Belfast with a picture of a crosshair. It's almost like we're going back in time, that we're not in a society that's going forward.
|Amazingly, the spelling is right.|
Her family is so concerned at her treatment that it expresses a desire for her to be out of journalism altogether. "They don't want to lose me - I don't want to lose my life."
Sinister stuff which, if not curbed, invites the danger of complacency whereby threats to the lives of journalists are read routinely as part of the job description, which in turn amplifies the risk.
Devlin is an investigative journalist with the Sunday World. The paper has already lost a journalist to loyalist killers, Martin O’Hagan. He was gunned down because of his coverage of loyalist activity and there are serious concerns that there was no proper investigation into his death because those that killed him were reputed to be police informers.
Last year Patricia Devlin made an official complaint against the PSNI for its failure to investigate threats to rape her baby. The chilling terminology of child rape is reminiscent of television dramas about Mexican drug cartels. How it fails to prompt any serious interest on the part of the PSNI might be best explained by a need to protect agents within the UDA. Echoes of Martin O'Hagan's perilous odyssey. A baby is threatened with rape and the police response is evening all, hello, hello, hello.
Devlin feels seriously let down by the PSNI which seems more focused on hounding other victims of the organisation threatening her. Slow to respond to a rape threat to a child the cops are quick out of the traps to abuse and arrest the survivor of a UDA massacre in the Lower Ormeau Road 29 years ago which took place with more than a hint of police collusion.
Earlier this year Devlin was to be a keynote speaker at an online conference organised by the Compass Rose Network, the purpose of which was "to discuss attacks on women journalists." The event was effectively scuttled by some of Devlin's NUJ colleagues on grounds considered spurious by the organisers, one of whom, Lesley Stock, has since claimed that the decision to torpedo the conference effectively threw Patricia Devlin under the bus. Denied the protection afforded by the watchful eye of an international audience, Devlin has been left vulnerable, her UDA predators sensing blood and circling their prey with what Devlin has called impunity.
Patricia Devlin's sense of isolation and abandonment reached a new height during the week when she pointed out that a new body, Women In Media, had completely ignored her plight.
Hi @WIMBelfast last week, my name was spray painted on 3 walls with gun crosshairs. I have received six threats from paramilitaries including one to my newborn son in just over a year. I haven’t heard from you. Do u represent all women in the media under threat here?
The response she received was as condescending as it was blindingly stupid.
Sorry to hear that, Patricia. We empathise fully as all three of our founders have experienced death threats and multiple threats of violence. We hope your employers, the NUJ and the PSNI are providing the support you deserve.
Which drew the bitingly caustic slap down from one online observer:
Thank you for your application , unfortunately on this occasion you have been unsuccessful, we wish you every success in the future. Please feel free to apply again.
Hope someone else is helping you, because we aren’t.
A determined and courageous journalist is under threat. She has been told she would be killed, her baby raped. It is nothing sort of horrendous. With the Police of Piffle and The Sisters Of Silence paralyzed by a mixture of vanity and vindictiveness, the rest of us - bloggers, writers, artists of every conceivable hue - need to step into the breach and link arms with Patricia Devlin in total defiance of the murderous arms that have her in their crosshairs.
⏩Follow on Twitter @AnthonyMcIntyre.