On February 12, 2021, graffiti painted by unidentified people appeared at three locations in Belfast, Northern Ireland, featuring a gun crosshair and the name of Patricia Devlin, a reporter for the Irish newspaper Sunday World, according to a report by her employer and Devlin, who spoke to CPJ via messaging app.
Police have opened an investigation into the graffiti, and vowed “vigorous action” to catch the perpetrators, the Belfast Telegraph reported.
In the days preceding the graffiti, Devlin told CPJ that a number of anonymous Twitter accounts posted misogynistic comments about her, and accused her of being a police informant. She said the messages were in response to her reporting on loyalist paramilitary groups for the Sunday World and her social media posts covering a gathering of masked paramilitary members in east Belfast on February 2.
Devlin told CPJ that after the February 2 gathering, members of two of those groups issued statements that did not mention her name but referred to a Sunday tabloid reporter and called her an “anti-loyalist antagonist.”
Devlin received multiple threats in 2019 and 2020, including one sent via Facebook threatening to rape her newborn son, she told CPJ in an interview in July 2020.
In October 2020, Devlin filed an official complaint over the police force’s alleged failure to investigate the threats she received, the BBC reported.
Devlin wrote on Twitter after the graffiti was found that she will “continue to report on the thugs and bullies terrorising their own communities.”
After the publication of this article, a North Irish police representative responded to CPJ’s emailed request for comment with a phone call confirming that an investigation was underway, but said she could not give any further information about the case.
[Editors’ note: This article has been updated to include comment from the North Irish police.]