New York, July 25, 2023 – British authorities should make public the findings of an investigation into allegations that Northern Ireland police surveilled journalists Trevor Birney and Barry McCaffrey in 2013 and hold those responsible to account, the Committee to Protect Journalists said Tuesday.
“British authorities should ensure a thorough and transparent investigation into the alleged surveillance of journalists Trevor Birney and Barry McCaffrey, and make sure that any who violated journalists’ rights are held accountable,” said Gulnoza Said, CPJ’s Europe and Central Asia program coordinator. “Journalists must be able to speak with sources and do their jobs without fear that authorities will spy on their communications.”
The investigation stems from complaints filed by Birney and McCaffrey to the Investigatory Powers Tribunal, an independent judicial body charged with looking into surveillance allegations. The IPT is expected to hold a hearing later this year on the lawfulness of that alleged surveillance.
Birney and McCaffrey were arrested and their homes raided in 2018 on suspicion of stealing confidential documents while working on the documentary “No Stone Unturned,” about a Northern Ireland police investigation into the 1994 murders of six men. In 2020, the journalists won a case in the High Court of Belfast, which ruled that the search warrants were inappropriate and ordered the police to pay damages to both journalists.
Birney told The Guardian that he and McCaffrey had no insight into the IPT’s investigation. He said they were “completely blinkered in this process. We only get to see a glimpse behind the curtain of what the court is doing.”