Media: A `Watergate' Not for Printing ; A Spate of Injunctions on National Papers Is Keeping a Controversial Incident in Northern Ireland's Recent History out of the Press. Paul Lashmar Investigates

By Lashmar, Paul | The Independent (London, England), April 24, 2001 | Go to article overview
Save to active project

Media: A `Watergate' Not for Printing ; A Spate of Injunctions on National Papers Is Keeping a Controversial Incident in Northern Ireland's Recent History out of the Press. Paul Lashmar Investigates


Lashmar, Paul, The Independent (London, England)


THE MINISTRY of Defence is using an unprecedented campaign of secret gagging orders to stop the press investigating one of the most controversial British Army undercover units to operate in 30 years of the Troubles in Northern Ireland.

At the centre of the scandal is the top secret British Army undercover unit called Forces Research Unit (FRU), which worked in Northern Ireland up to 1991 and is alleged to control loyalist terrorists who assassinated at least 13 people.

Sinn Fein's Republican News has called FRU's operations "the British Watergate" and claims the unit ran a secret "proxy shoot to kill policy" using loyalist terrorists for a decade up to 1990.

Over the past two years the MOD has been fighting a fierce rearguard action to keep information coming out over the Forces Research Unit. Instead of the usual threat of prosecution under the Official Secrets Act, the MOD has refined and extended the use of injunctions. Using public interest immunity certificates signed by a minister, these are sometimes obtained from a duty judge during the night. The accompanying papers have large sections blacked out.

In all cases they contain grave warnings that release of the information will cause loss of life and damage national security. Journalists feel that this extreme claim places judges in a difficult situation and lawyers for the media in an impossible one in contesting the orders.

No one knows how many injunctions have been served. It is known multiple injunctions have been served on newspapers including the Sunday Herald, The Sunday People and The Sunday Times. Former members of the Forces Research Unit have also been the subject of injunctions.

Richard Walker the deputy editor of the Sunday Herald says that the MOD's threats of injunctions have very serious implications for press freedom.

"To a paper on a tight budget like ours injunctions are a problem. We do not have the money to fight each injunction in court," he says.

"One of our principle problems is that the MOD does not have a consistent approach. It gives out different signals about what it considers to be a breach."

Remarkably, in some cases the terms of the injunctions and the fact they even exist are secret and cannot be communicated to anyone else.

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Sign up now for a free, 1-day trial and receive full access to:

  • Questia's entire collection
  • Automatic bibliography creation
  • More helpful research tools like notes, citations, and highlights
  • Ad-free environment

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
Loading One moment ...
Project items
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

Cited article

Media: A `Watergate' Not for Printing ; A Spate of Injunctions on National Papers Is Keeping a Controversial Incident in Northern Ireland's Recent History out of the Press. Paul Lashmar Investigates
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

While we understand printed pages are helpful to our users, this limitation is necessary to help protect our publishers' copyrighted material and prevent its unlawful distribution. We are sorry for any inconvenience.
Full screen

matching results for page

Cited passage

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

Cited passage

Welcome to the new Questia Reader

The Questia Reader has been updated to provide you with an even better online reading experience.  It is now 100% Responsive, which means you can read our books and articles on any sized device you wish.  All of your favorite tools like notes, highlights, and citations are still here, but the way you select text has been updated to be easier to use, especially on touchscreen devices.  Here's how:

1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
2. Click or tap the last word you want to select.

OK, got it!

Thanks for trying Questia!

Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

For full access in an ad-free environment, sign up now for a FREE, 1-day trial.

Already a member? Log in now.

Are you sure you want to delete this highlight?