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Friday, August 20, 1999 Published at 19:57 GMT 20:57 UK

UK: Northern Ireland

Reporter prepares to defy court

Front page news: Journalist Ed Moloney's story

A newspaper reporter in Northern Ireland is defying police attempts to make him give evidence against a man charged with the murder of a prominent nationalist solicitor nine years ago.

Belfast journalist Ed Moloney said he was prepared to go to jail to safeguard his livelihood and principles.

His front page exclusive in the Dublin based Sunday Tribune newspaper on 27 June has landed him in court where he faces a possible jail sentence.

[ image: Ed Moloney:
Ed Moloney: "If I give over these notes I might as well give up being a journalist"
It was a story he had been sitting on for nine years. It centred on claims by a self-confessed Royal Ulster Constabulary special branch informer that he had twice warned the police of loyalist plans to murder the solicitor Pat Finucane in 1989.

William Stobie, who claimed to be a UDA quartermaster at the time, told the journalist in a series of interviews that while he didn't know the identity of the person to be killed, he had given the police enough information to prevent the shooting - or at least to apprehend those responsible.

Ed Moloney promised he would not publish his story without the permission of his source.

He got the go-ahead eight weeks ago after loyalist William Stobie was charged with the murder of Pat Finucane. He denies the charge.

Visited by police

Within days of publication, Moloney was visited by officers from the police team called in by the RUC to investigate allegations of collusion between members of the security forces and loyalist paramilitaries.

The Stevens Inquiry team asked him to hand over his notes and make a statement. Maloney refused and the police obtained a court order directing him to comply with police demands.

"I have no choice in this matter. If I give over these notes I might as well give up being a journalist in Northern Ireland because no-one will be able to have trust in me from there on," said Ed Maloney.

'Confidential information'

"People who gave me confidential information would not know when or if they would appear in court on the basis of information I then gave to the police.

They would not talk to me and who would blame them?"

He will go to court on Monday in an attempt to have the order overturned.

If he fails and still refuses to produce his notes, he could be prosecuted, fined and jailed for up to five years.

The editor of the Sunday Tribune Matt Cooper, said that would be utterly bizarre.

"It would be totally wrong because is Ed is a very principled, hard working journalist.

"We don't even want to contemplate that happening."

Call for independent inquiry

Human rights campaigners in Northern Ireland say the police action against Ed Moloney reinforces their call for an independent inquiry into the murder of Pat Finucane.

"It would necessitate a very thorough inquiry into what is already on police files," said Paul Mageean of the Committee on the Administration of Justice.

"We think if that was done it would undermine the need for any action against Ed Maloney."

The journalist says that whatever happens on Monday, he is prepared to pay any price to protect his professional integrity.

"No-one wants to go to jail. You don't want to leave your family. Obviously it is an unpleasant experience from every point of view but the alternative is even worse."

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