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Thursday, 2 May, 2002, 13:35 GMT 14:35 UK
'Reveal sources' says inquiry
Lena Ferguson and Alex Thomson
Journalists have 14 days to comply with order
Two journalists have refused to comply with a Bloody Sunday inquiry order to reveal the identities of soldiers who were interviewed for a series of reports about the shootings.

Channel Four presenter Alex Thomson and former producer Lena Ferguson were told on Thursday by the inquiry chairman they would be in contempt of court unless they made the names available.

Inquiry chairman Lord Saville said it was "vital" the inquiry had the opportunity to question the four soldiers as details they had given to the news organisation were "tantalisingly incomplete".

The threat of contempt relates to a series of reports for Channel Four News in 1997 which they interviewed soldiers on the condition their identities would not be revealed.

The Saville Inquiry, sitting in Londonderry, is examining the events of 30 January 1972 when 13 civilians were shot dead by British army soldiers during a civil rights march in the city. A 14th person died later.

British army patrol on Bloody Sunday
Soldiers in the Bogside on Bloody Sunday

It is understood the inquiry will now refer the contempt issue to the High Court in Belfast.

ITN announced immediately after the ruling that it would launch an appeal.

If the High Court orders the journalists to reveal their sources and they refuse, they could face prison.

Ms Ferguson and Mr Thomson later went individually into the witness box and were asked to write down the identities of the soldiers - Ms Ferguson four of the soldiers and Mr Thomson one.

Both refused to do so or to hand over unabridged copies of their notes.

They have 14 days to change their minds, but Mr Thomson said the principle that a journalist did not betray his sources was "absolutely fundamental".

He said: "The principle that you do not betray your sources is absolutely fundamental, not solely to our journalism but to everybody's investigative journalism."

Speaking outside the inquiry on Thursday, Ms Ferguson said: "I gave an undertaking to soldiers that I would not reveal their identity."

She added that: "We just simply cannot go back on that. An agreement is an agreement, a promise is a promise, and that is all there is to it."

On Wednesday, Channel Four News handed over to the Bloody Sunday Inquiry notes of interviews with soldiers used in a series of reports about the shootings 30 years ago.

Notes

Inquiry chairman Lord Saville directed on Tuesday that notes taken during interviews by Lena Ferguson, who produced the reports for the broadcaster, must be given to the inquiry.

Ms Ferguson, who now works for the BBC in Belfast, had provided the inquiry with only brief notes.

She said that to produce the full notes would identify her soldier sources and she was not prepared to break undertakings given to them not to do so.

But Lord Saville said it was clear there was much information in the notebooks which would be of importance to the inquiry and it should be provided with only matters relating to the soldiers' identities blanked out.
Lord Saville Inquiry chairman
Lord Saville is heading inquiry into Bloody Sunday

Ms Ferguson and the legal team for ITN, which produces Channel Four News, worked overnight to produce the notes, which she had told the inquiry on Tuesday were contained in up to 10 notebooks.

Lord Saville of Newdigate and the commonwealth judges accompanying him on the Bloody Sunday inquiry began their work nearly four years ago.

They are not expected to report back until 2004.

The Bloody Sunday inquiry was established in 1998 by Prime Minister Tony Blair after a campaign by families of those killed and injured.

They felt that the Widgery Inquiry, held shortly after the shootings, did not find out the truth about what happened on Bloody Sunday.

 WATCH/LISTEN
 ON THIS STORY
BBC NI's Paul McAuley reports
"The four soldiers involved gave Channel Four controversial accounts"
Find out more about the Bloody Sunday Inquiry


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01 May 02 | N Ireland
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