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Here's a quotation from the April 6th 2008 edition of Irish tabloid the Sunday World which gives the name of the man most people who have looked into the case believe shot Martin. But the Police Service of Northern Ireland (PSNI) refuse to charge this man with Martin's murder.
That quote was in the page 22-23 article entitled 'Martin was very proud to be a tabloid reporter - his work affected so many and his spirit lives on with us - Tribute Night for Shot Reporter.
What dark forces operating within the PSNI have prevented Marty's killer even coming to court?
Colleagues of murdered journalist Martin O'Hagan are increasingly concerned about police efforts to apprehend his killers. Many are now openly suspicious the police hunt is being blocked to protect an agent withing the loyalist terrorist group behind his death.
The investigation is now in its eighteenth month, and police assurances about catching the killers are hard to reconcile with reports the main suspects are still involved in serious crime, but remain free.
Martin O'Hagan, a married 51 year old father of three daughters, was the popular investigative reporter with the northern office of the tabloid Sunday World newspaper, shot dead in Lurgan in Sepember 2001, on his way home after a night out with wife Marie. He was secretary of the NUJ Belfast branch.
Police Service of Northern Ireland (PSN) representatives assured an NUJ delegation last autumn that every effort was being made to track down the killers, and the case had "the highest priority", but that insufficient evidence existed to charge individuals. Irish NUJ National Organiser Seamus Dooley has since said there were still real concerns that there seemed to be no progress, despite police assurances over resources and personel.
One thing that has puzzled Martin's friends is the police announcement on the anniversary of his death that one person who they wished to question was "outside the jurisdiction". The Sunday World identified the "suspect", based on information from the inquiry's leading detective. The paper said he was in hiding among loyalists in Scotland.
But this "suspect" arranged to return to the north to be questioned at Lisburn police station. After two hours he was released without condition, and has effectively been ruled oput of the inquiry. His interview brought to the nine the number of people questioned without any charges.
Reliable information surfaced, however, that on the weekend he was identified in the paper, this "suspect" was spotted in Lurgan reading the Sunday papers, arguably calling into question whether he was actively being sought, and whether police genuinely believed he played any part in the murder. The name was not among those circulated quickly after the murder.
Again, reliable information suggests there is another suspect still at large, whose house was searched in connection with the murder in October 2001, but who has also fled the north. The man, whose identity is being withheld, is said to have been connected to the Loyalist Volunteer Force's drugs operations.
More poignantly, a PSNI officer working as a liaison officer with Martin's widow Marie took his own life in Lurgan police station. There had been information this officer had been linked with threats against Rosemary Nelson, the Lurgan solicitor killed by loyalist terrorists in 1999. But this claim has been ruled out by informed sources, who attribute the man's death simply to tragic circumstances.
Two of the leading murder suspects are siad to have been involved in recent shooting incidents in the confined area of the Mourneview estate, close to where Martin was killed.
A number of sources claim that last summer the leading suspect and the individual suspected of burning the dummy getaway car on the night of the murder used shotguns to blast out windows from a luxury apartment complex in Lurgan, in an extortion bid. It is claimed they were videoed during the attack and that the tape was passed to police, but without further development.
Martin's friends are increasingly convinced someone within the LVF is an agent, working for the security services, and that no charges are being brought against Martin's killers to protect him.
They point to the 1989 murder of Belfast solicitor Pat Finucane, when the leading RUC investigator was unaware for years that four of the five killers were security force agents at the time of the murder.
Perhaps now the investigation team is not aware that one of the suspects is a "tout".
Martin's colleagues are asking why the plethora of security surveillance units have not apparently been deployed against the Lurgan LVF, especially as it has been engaged in a loyalist feud with the larger Ulster Defence Association, which left three dead and nine injured.
One year on, is anyone looking for the answers? Saturday 28 September 2002 will be the anniversary of the murder of Martin O'Hagan - yet no one has been brought to book. Few if any questions have been answered.
He was not the first journalist to be killed in the 30 years of conflict in Northern Ireland but he was the first journalist to be targeted and killed for his work.
He continues to be remembered and missed by his colleagues and friends of the Belfast and District Branch of the NUJ. We miss his good humour, his love of mischief, his tireless commitment to socialism and trade unionism. He was no saint; he was, like the rest of us, human and made mistakes. He could infuriate and delight you at the same time. He was not always treated with the respect and dignity he deserved.
But I for one continue to be proud to have known him. He was fearless and determined as a journalist. He refused to be silenced doing stories that others feared to touch.
It is important that we clearly lay the blame for Martin's murder at the door of the LVF murder team that carried it out. It is also important to look at possible motives, the political climate and the type of story that Martin had worked on and was working on at the time of his murder to understand some of the concerns of his close colleagues.
The following is a list of questions, which I and others believe need to be addressed:
As Chair of the Belfast and District Branch I call upon any NUJ members with information - regardless of how insignificant they may think it is - to come forward and help the police with their investigation.
Please help to uncover the truth. Ask yourself what can you do as a journalist and/or a NUJ member to ensure he is remembered and that his story is told.
Martin O'Hagan, who was shot dead in Lurgan, Co Armagh, aged 51, was the first working journalist to be killed in Northern Ireland since the outbreak of the troubles in 1969.
O'Hagan, who, more than 20 years ago, served five years in jail for gun-running for the IRA, had an impressive list of contacts in both loyalist and republican circles, as well as in the security forces. He was a key source for the material used in Channel 4's 1991 Dispatches documentary, The Committee, about the so-called Ulster Central Co- ordinating Committee, a group of loyalists and security forces members who allegedly conspired to carry out sectarian assassinations.
The RUC and mainstream loyalist paramilitaries said the committee was an invention. It was later alleged that O'Hagan had received around £5,000 from the programme- makers. The Dispatches programme led to a prolonged series of prosecutions and libel cases, some of which are still unresolved. Channel 4 was fined £75,000 and made to pay huge legal costs for failing to supply the RUC with information about the allegations in the programme.
O'Hagan was a late entry into journalism. His father served in the British army and Martin, one of six children, spent part of his childhood in the married quarters of military bases in Germany. His grandfather was also a soldier, and saw service at Dunkirk. The family returned to Lurgan when Martin was seven, and he was educated in the town, leaving after taking O-levels to work in his father's TV repair shop.
As a teenager, he joined the Official IRA's Lurgan unit. He was drawn to the Officials because of their then radical socialist-republican politics, and became active in their military wing. He despised the sectarianism of Northern Ireland life and married a local Protestant girl, Marie Dukes.
The Officials, from which the Provisional IRA sprang in 1971, declared a ceasefire in 1972, deciding to eschew violence and build an all-Ireland, working-class electoral base to pursue its socialist programme. O'Hagan retained his early socialist outlook throughout his life.
He was interned in 1971 and spent more than a year in the Official IRA compound at Long Kesh. After he was freed in 1973, he was jailed for seven years for transporting guns, and was released in 1978.
By then, O'Hagan had made the decision to turn from paramilitarism and the increasingly sectarian politics of Northern Ireland. He studied sociology at the Open University and the University of Ulster, and was given a largely unpaid position with the leftwing Irish political periodical, Fortnight, in the early 1980s. He then began casual work for local newspapers, eventually joining the Belfast office of the Irish Sunday tabloid newspaper, the Sunday World.
At the time, the Sunday World's Northern office was under the editorship of Jim Campbell, a campaigning journalist who had learned the trade of tabloid journalism in Australia. Then, as now, the paper carried a mixture of exposés and titillation that make it one of the highest circulation Sunday newspapers in both the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland. Campbell himself was shot in 1984 by the Ulster Volunteer Force (UVF) after revealing details about one of its north Armagh assassins.
In 1989, the IRA found O'Hagan's telephone number in the address book of a senior policeman it had assassinated. O'Hagan was "invited" to south Armagh, ostensibly for an interview, but was then bound and hooded by his abductors. He told friends later that he believed he was going to be killed.
Although it is not known who shot O'Hagan, he had recently expressed concern after being told that he was possibly under surveillance by members of the splinter loyalist group, the Loyalist Volunteer Force (LVF). The LVF had harboured a grudge against him for years because he had exposed how they combined a campaign of nakedly sectarian assassinations against Catholics with a large illegal drugs distribution network.
O'Hagan was the first journalist to draw attention to the activities of the LVF founder, Billy Wright, one of the worst loyalist sectarian assassins to emerge in the troubles. Wright lived only a few miles from O'Hagan in north Armagh, and attempted to have the journalist murdered in 1992. The threat was sufficient to cause O'Hagan to temporarily move to the Sunday World office in Dublin, and then to Cork. He continued working for the newspaper, returning to his family in Lurgan before the paramilitary ceasefires.
However, the exposés by O'Hagan and his colleagues on the Sunday World continued to draw flack from the paramilitaries, and the newspaper's Belfast offices were attacked twice with bombs. O'Hagan himself received many death threats. His assassination was claimed in the name of the Red Hand Defenders, a title said by the RUC to be a cover-name for the LVF. The same cover-name was used after the murder of the Lurgan solicitor, Rosemary Nelson, in 1998.
Despite his background in republican paramilitarism, Martin O'Hagan was accepted into the Belfast press community, where he was admired for his hard work. Aside from his insightful stories on terrorists, he had a good eye for old-fashioned, muck-raking tabloid stories. A favourite theme was the exploration of double standards among supposedly straitlaced Protestant loyalists. He once wrote a story accompanied by a picture of a leading Orangeman, in full regalia, alongside a photograph from a sex- contact magazine showing the same man, naked and with a box number covering his genitals.
O'Hagan is survived by his wife and daughters, Cara, Niamh and Tina.
Owen Martin O'Hagan, journalist, born June 23 1950; died September 28 2001
THE veteran investigative reporter, Martin O'Hagan, who was shot dead by dissident loyalist killers on Friday night, died saving his wife from the gunmen.
The Red Hand Defenders, a cover-name for the paramilitary Ulster Defence Association (UDA) and the Loyalist Volunteer Force (LVF) claimed responsibility for O'Hagan's murder in a call to the BBC newsroom in Belfast.
O'Hagan, a Catholic journalist who worked in the Belfast office of the Dublin-based Sunday World newspaper, was killed at around 10.30pm on his way home from a local pub with his wife Marie in his home town of Lurgan.
The Red Hand Defenders said its gunmen murdered O'Hagan 'for crimes against the loyalist people'. The 51-year-old journalist was acclaimed for his fearless work exposing the activities of paramilitary murder gangs.
Security sources believe the LVF, which has a strong following in the Lurgan area, murdered O'Hagan. Detectives are now examining a series of stories he wrote about the organisation -- a hardline splinter group -- in a bid to catch his killers.
The Belfast editor of the Sunday World, Jim McDowell, said he was 'devastated' by the loss of his friend. O'Hagan remained courageous to the very end, said McDowell, adding: 'Marty threw Marie into a hedge and shielded her with his body as the gunmen fired. He took two bullets.
'He was a journalist who never stood back in life. If there were issues to be addressed then he did it. As a fearless journalist and a secretary of the NUJ in Belfast, an attack on someone of his stature is an attack on the freedom of speech and the freedom of the press.'
O'Hagan had been threatened by a well-known loyalist terrorist from Co Armagh just a week before his death. The Sunday World, which brought out a special tribute edition to their dead colleague this morning, has given the name of the paramilitary leader to the RUC.
Martin O'Hagan's murder came as Dr John Reid, the Northern Ireland secretary, declared that the UDA's ceasefire was intact despite nights of violence in Belfast during which shots were fired at the RUC.
Thirty-three officers were injured, 50 shots were fired at police and six blast bombs and 125 petrol bombs were thrown at RUC lines by loyalist rioters. The Chief Constable, Sir Ronnie Flanagan, said he was certain the UDA was directing the violence.
On the killing of O'Hagan, Reid said he was 'appalled by this barbaric crime', adding: 'It shows contempt for human life, contempt for the freedom of the press and contempt for the people of Northern Ireland.'
Reid warned the UDA on Friday that they were on their last chance. He said he would declare their ceasefire over if there was any more UDA inspired violence.
O'Hagan was killed just yards from his home, in a mixed Protestant and Catholic area. A car, thought to have been used in the attack, was found burnt out a short distance away from the scene of the shooting.
Ulster Unionist leader David Trimble, whose constituency includes Lurgan, condemned the killing, calling on the people of the town to bring those responsible to justice.
Acting First Minister, Reg Empey, and acting Deputy First Minister, Seamus Mallon, described the murder as 'an attack on democracy itself'.
The Irish Taoiseach, Bertie Ahern, said: 'Those responsible for this barbarous act have no place in the new society all right-thinking people are trying to build in Northern Ireland. They have deprived a family of a husband and a father for no other reason than to satisfy their craven thirst for violence.'
Martin O'Hagan had received several death threats throughout his career, and the Sunday World office had been targeted by terrorists in the past. In the early 1970s, the paper's former northern editor Jim Campbell was shot several times by a loyalist gunman on the doorstep of his north Belfast home.
Martin O'Hagan was forced to leave Northern Ireland in 1993 after his life was threatened by Billy Wright, the leader of the LVF who was shot dead by republican gunmen while in the Maze prison in 1998. It was O'Hagan who dubbed Wright 'King Rat'. He had written numerous articles exposing Wright's campaign of sectarian murder.
Sinn Fein minister Martin McGuinness said the murder was 'deplorable', and attacked John Reid for 'making a fool of himself' by not declaring the UDA ceasefire over following the killing.
Rory MacLeod, president of the NUJ, said: 'This was an appalling attack on a reporter who throughout his career campaigned against the twin evils of sectarianism and terrorism.'
MARTIN O'HAGAN was that rare commodity, a journalist who went where his instincts took him, without fear or favour, caring little for his personal safety and with equal suspicion for both republican and loyalist camps.
He poked around in corners where some people don't like journalists poking. Others prefer to leave some dark corners undisturbed.
Martin was not one of them. Show him a dark corner and he would shine a light on it.
In other parts of the world, such activity is risky. But in the North, where armed gangs roam about and strike macho postures on top of their lethal dungheaps, you take your life in your hands.
He is the second person to die who was connected to allegations that an "inner circle" existed in the 1980s, linking some RUC officers, businessmen and clergy to the UVF killer gangs headed up by Robin "Jackal" Jackson and Billy "King Rat" Wright.
The solicitor, Rosemary Nelson, murdered by loyalists in March 1999, was another Lurgan resident who, perhaps, knew too much and was intimidated and finally killed for it.
There are demands for a public inquiry into her murder, demands that have not been acceded to. Perhaps now more pressure will begin to build for an inquiry into the deeds that Martin O'Hagan and Rosemary Nelson were dedicated to unveiling.
Sean McPhilemy, the man who produced The Committee for Channel 4 and who later wrote a book based on the programme, was assisted in his work by both Rosemary Nelson and Martin O'Hagan.
Those who sought to denigrate the main thesis of the programme, used the fact of an ancient arms charge against Martin to smear him and, by implication, his work. It was a low tactic, but worked with some people.
When this happened, Martin would shrug his shoulders. He knew that some of his colleagues looked down on him and dismissed his work. He marvelled at a world where such things could happen, and yet few other than he appeared to give a damn.
I remember only too well the frustrated phonecalls, the sense of surprise in his voice as he explained that no one believed some of the facts he had dug up on his journeys.
He didn't cut the kind of figure that the phrase "investigative journalist" might conjure up. He was short in stature, with a hirsute face and thick spectacles. He was no Clark Kent.
But, spend a few minutes in his company and you suddenly realised that here was guy who really knew his stuff. His information wasn't surface-superficial, but deep, down and dirty. It was frightening even talking to him.
He would go off on tangents. You might call him for advice on whether this or that repulsive Portadown drug-dealer was linked to the UVF or LVF. By the end of the conversation he had filled you in on who was cheating on who, who had sworn to murder who, where the fault lines were and whose star was on the ascendant.
He retained that vital sense of anger; anger that loyalist drug-lords in Portadown and Lurgan could destroy so many young people's lives by feeding them a potent and poisonous mixture of illegal substances and ridiculous paranoia.
There are certain boundaries which journalists cross at their peril. If you cross them, you know the risks. Marty knew the risks and he crossed over. He couldn't help himself, it was in his nature.
Many journalists, most in fact, choose not to cross over. The RUC, after all, carry guns and live in areas that offer at least some protection from those they hunt down.
It's the job of the police to dig into the darker regions of paramilitary drug-dealing not journalists.
Or so some of us tell ourselves to salve our consciences for not, perhaps, having the courage to chase the real stories.
Marty knew no such fastidiousness. He was irresistibly drawn to the dark deeds of those who kill "for God and Ulster".
He spent more time delving into loyalist activity than republican for the simple reason that there was more scope in it.
He knew he was under death threat, and at one point, when the threats became particularly frightening, took his wife and family out of Lurgan to live in Cork for their safety.
But, before too long, the family longed to get back to the North, and Martin returned, hoping that they had forgotten about him.
Well, they hadn't forgotten and on Friday night they silenced him with three bullets in the back. He died after a night out with his wife; he always went out on a Friday night, in his beloved Lurgan.
Many journalists still regard the mid-Ulster area, that amorphous and dangerous country north of Armagh city, south of Cookstown, west of Lisburn and east of Aughnacloy as the "murder triangle".
The murders might not be as frequent as they once were, but the countryside still contains some of the most vicious killers in the North, people who regard little bits of territory as their own, and woe to anyone who trespasses. We step into that land, if we know anything at all, with trepidation. It was Marty's "beat" and he regarded it with a mixture of love and loathing.
He loved his home town, but he knew only too well what dangers lurked under the surface.
Not only did he know them, he studied them, up close. Not for him the phone call or careful interview.
He moved among those he was writing about every day and every night. As a result, he knew what was going on. He was generous with his time and information. He would sometimes call me with stories that he had investigated but, for some reason or another, his own paper had decided not to run. I was reluctant to use another journalist's information, both because I thought it ethically wrong and because I would rather do the investigating myself, although I never had the time and was, frankly, often too scared to do so.
I feel now that I let him down, although at least I believed him and listened to him and marvelled at his information.
I never, as others did, laughed at him and tried to dismiss his work as irrelevant or unreliable. I believed him. Because of the way he died, there will be fewer, even than there are now, to probe the depths he probed.
It means there are loathsome creatures who sell drugs and peddle propaganda to young loyalist people in mid-Ulster who will sleep quieter in their beds as a result.
Martin was a one-off. He takes to his grave thousands of stories that will never now be published. Those of us who believed him have a duty now to press, more than ever, for the light of the truth, in the form of a public inquiry, to be shone on his serious claims of RUC/loyalist collusion.
A Sunday World journalist was shot dead by a gunman close to his home in Lurgan, Co Armagh, last night
Mr Martin O'Hagan was walking home from the local pub with his wife when he was murdered.
A gunman pulled up beside him in a car in Wheatfield Gardens and shot him.
He died at the scene.
The loyalist Red Hand Defenders, a cover name used in the past by the UDA and the LVF, this morning claimed responsibility for the murder.
In a call to a Belfast newsroom, the group said he had been killed for "crimes against the loyalist people".
Mr O'Hagan had been living with loyalist death threats for years and there was speculation today that the LVF may have carried out the killing.
Eight years ago, he moved to Cork after LVF leader Billy Wright - himself shot dead by the INLA inside the Maze Prison - threatened his life.
Mr O'Hagan had given Wright the nickname King Rat and had written a series of exposes about the murderous activities of his gang, the Ratpack.
He was a key witness in a case over the controversial Channel Four programme The Committee, which alleged leading members of the security forces were involved in a secret ring linked to loyalist paramilitaries.
Mr O'Hagan leaves three daughters, including one engaged to be married.
The RUC said today Mr O'Hagan had been killed in a drive-by shooting and they were examining a burned out car found a short distance away which may have been used by the killer.
He is the first working journalist to be murdered in the course of his duties since the Troubles began in the late 60s.
Murdered journalist Mr Martin O'Hagan was threatened by a well-known loyalist less than a week before his death, it has been reported.
Mr O'Hagan, who worked for the northern edition of the Dublin-based Sunday World, was shot dead as he walked home with his wife Marie from their local pub in Lurgan, Co Armagh.
Senior security sources believe that the LVF, which has a strong presence in Lurgan and nearby Portadown, carried out the killing under the cover name the Red Hand Defenders.
The newspaper has given police the name of the man who had singled him out close to his Westfield Gardens home.
Sunday World northern editor Mr Jim McDowell said: "He was told by a certain individual 'we have you clocked walking up and down this street'. The man who spoke to him is a loyalist fanatic."
Mr O'Hagan had recently been working on a number of stories, involving members of the LVF, the hard-line terror group, which split from the Ulster Volunteer Force in 1996. Detectives are to examine these stories carefully to catch his killers.
The reporter had a history of run-ins with the LVF leader Billy Wright, who was himself gunned down by republicans in the Maze Prison in December 1998.
In 1993, he was forced to flee Northern Ireland after receiving death threats from Wright.
Mr McDowell said his colleague had remained courageous to the end, adding: "Marty threw Marie into a hedge and shielded her with his body as the gunmen fired. He took two of the bullets."
The murder was condemned by Northern Ireland Secretary Dr John Reid as an attack on freedom of speech and by the MP for the area, Mr David Trimble, who described the murder as "cowardly".
Politicians, colleagues and friends have today been paying tribute to Mr Martin O'Hagan, the murdered Sunday World journalist who was gunned down in front of his wife in Lurgan, Co Armagh last night.
The Taoiseach, Mr Bertie Ahern, said it was "senseless and brutal", while the Tánaiste Ms Harney, condemned the killing as "shocking and depraved".
"Those responsible for this barbarous act have no place in the new society all right-thinking people are trying to build," Mr Ahern said. "They have deprived a family of a husband and a father for no other reason than to satisfy their craven thirst for violence."
As a fearless journalist ... an attack on someone of his stature is an attack on the freedom of speech and freedom of the press
In New York, the Minister for Foreign Affairs Mr Cowen said he had been shocked to hear of the " deeply shocking and cynical act".
"Those who have carried out this heinous act have absolutely nothing to offer the people of Northern Ireland except fear and silence", he said.
The Ulster Unionist leader Mr David Trimble, MP for the area, condemned the murder as "cowardly", and said he was appalled by this latest shooting.
"Tragically, Lurgan has witnessed yet another murder and I would call upon the wider community to assist the RUC in any way possible as they seek to bring to justice the perpetrators of this act."
Northern Ireland Secretary Dr John Reid echoed Mr Trimbles comments, saying he was appalled by the "barbaric killing."
"It shows contempt for human life, contempt for freedom of the press and contempt for the people of Northern Ireland. I have spoken to the Chief Constable and I share his absolute determination to track down the cowards responsible for this act of savagery."
Acting First Minister Sir Reg Empey and the acting Deputy First Minister Mr Seamus Mallon said it was "an attack on democracy itself".
"Mr O'Hagan's murder must be condemned. Those who carried it out must be reviled."
"The right of a free press to operate without fear of violent assault or intimidation is a basic principle in any democratic society," they said in a joint statement.
The Northern Ireland editor of the Dublin-based Sunday World, Mr Jim McDowell, said he was "devastated" by the murder.
"He was a journalist who never stood back in his life," Mr McDowell said. "If there are issues to be addressed, then he did it.
"I was not aware he was under any threat at this time. He never talked about that.
"But, obviously, as a fearless journalist and a secretary of the NUJ in Belfast, an attack on someone of his stature is an attack on the freedom of speech and freedom of the press.
"This newspaper has suffered many threats in the past and everyone is shattered."
Sunday World editor Mr Colm MacGinty today travelled from Dublin to visit Mr O'Hagan's family and to put together a special memorial edition.
"Martin was fearless in carrying out his duties and never ever shirked from a challenge, despite the fact that he had been threatened before. He was shot in the back and died in search of the truth. With him died a certain element of that truth," said Mr MacGinty.
The President of the NUJ, Mr Rory McLeod, described the murder as "an appalling and sickening attack on a reporter who throughout his career campaigned against the twin evils of sectarianism and terrorism."
Ms Mary Maher, chairperson of the Irish Executive of the NUJ, said Mr O'Hagan was "a journalist of singular courage in an environment which demands our members to expose themselves to danger on a daily basis from those who reject democracy."
Mr John Jefferies of the Workers Party paid tribute to his friend, describing him as a true professional and committed trade unionist who was widely respected and popular. The shooting was a "callous act of cowardice", he said.
Monday June 12, 2000 The Guardian
British journalists - and British journals - are being manipulated by the secret intelligence agencies, and I think we ought to try and put a stop to it.
The manipulation takes three forms. The first is the attempt to recruit journalists to spy on other people, or to go themselves under journalistic "cover". This occurs today and it has gone on for years. It is dangerous, not only for the journalist concerned, but for other journalists who get tarred with the espionage brush. Farzad Bazoft was a colleague of mine on the Observer when he was executed by Saddam Hussein for espionage. In a sense it didn't matter whether he was really a spy or not. Either way, he ended up dead.
The second form of manipulation that worries me is when intelligence officers are allowed to pose as journalists in order to write tendentious articles under false names. Evidence of this only rarely comes to light, but two examples have surfaced recently, mainly because of the whistleblowing activities of a couple of renegade officers - David Shayler from MI5 and Richard Tomlinson from MI6.
The third sort of manipulation is the most insidious - when intelligence agency propaganda stories are planted on willing journalists, who disguise their origin from their readers. There is - or has been until recently - a very active programme by the secret agencies to colour what appears in the British press, called, if publications by various defectors can be believed, information operations, or "I/Ops". I am - unusually - in a position to provide some information about its operations.
Let us take the third allegation first. Black propaganda - false material where the source is disguised - has been a tool of British intelligence agencies since the days of the second world war, when the Special Operations Executive (SOE) got up to all kinds of tricks with clandestine radio stations, to drip pornography and pessimism into the ears of impressionable German soldiers. Post-war, this unwholesome game mutated into the anti- Soviet Information Research Department (IRD). Its task was ostensibly to plant anti-communist stories in the developing- world press, but its lurid tales of Marxist drunkenness and corruption sometimes leaked back to confuse the readers of the British media.
A colourful example of the way these techniques expanded to meet the exigencies of the hour came in the early 70s, when the readers of the News of the World were treated to a front-page splash, "Russian sub in IRA plot sensation", complete with aerial photograph of the conning tower of a Soviet sub awash off the coast of Donegal. That was the work of Hugh Mooney of the IRD, which was eventually closed down in 1977.
Its spirit did not die, however. Nearly 25 years later, readers of the Sunday Telegraph were regaled with with the dramatic story of the son of Libya's Colonel Gadafy and his alleged connection to a currency counterfeiting plan. The story was written by Con Coughlin, the paper's chief foreign correspondent and it was falsely attributed to a "British banking official". In fact, it had been given to him by officers of MI6, who, it transpired, had been supplying Coughlin with material for years.
The origins of that November 1995 newspaper article only came to light when they were recently disclosed by Mark Hollingsworth, the biographer of renegade security service officer David Shayler. Shayler had worked on MI5's Libya desk at the time, in liaison with his counterparts in the foreign espionage service, MI6, and had come away with a detailed knowledge of events, and a bundle of secret documents to back them up.
The allegations were confirmed from an unexpected direction. The Sunday Telegraph was served with a libel writ by Gadafy's son. The paper was unable to back up its suggestion that Gadafy junior might have been linked to a fraud, but pleaded, in effect, that it had been supplied with the material by the government.
In a long and detailed statement, which entered the public domain in the course of a judgment given in an interlocutory appeal on October 28 1998, the paper described how, under Charles Moore's editorship, a lunch had been arranged with the then Conservative foreign secretary, Malcolm Rifkind, at which Con Coughlin had been present. Told by Rifkind that countries such as Iran were trying to get hold of hard currency to beat sanctions, Coughlin was later briefed by an MI6 man - his regular contact.
Some weeks later, he was introduced to a second MI6 man, who spent several hours with him and handed over extensive details of the story about Gadafy's son. Although Coughlin asked for evidence, and was shown purported bank statements, the pleadings make clear that he was dependent on MI6 for the discreditable details about the alleged counterfeiting scam. He was required to keep the source strictly confidential.
Throughout the formal pleadings, the Telegraph preserved the figleaf of its sources by referring to a "Western government security agency". But this veil of coyness was blown away by City solicitor David Hooper in his book on libel published last month, Reputations Under Fire, in which he says: "In reality [they were] members of MI6."
So, unusually, an MI6 exercise in planting a story has been laid bare. Now, there is no suggestion that Con Coughlin is dishonest in his work. He is a perfectly conscientious journalist who I expect did his best to substantiate his facts and undoubtedly believed in their truth. But nevertheless, those facts may not have been true. And I believe he made a serious mistake in falsely attributing his story to a "British banking official". His readers ought to know where his material is coming from. When the Sunday Telegraph got into trouble with the libel case, it seems, after all, to have suddenly found it possible to become a lot more specific about its sources.
This was not an isolated example of recent MI6 I/Ops. In August 1997, the present foreign editor of the Independent, Leonard Doyle, was also in contact with MI6 while he was at his previous post at the Observer. I know, because I became involved in an MI6-inspired story as a result. Doyle's MI6 contact supplied him with intelligence information about an Iranian exile who, while running a pizza business in Glasgow, was also attempting to lay hands on a sophisticated mass spectrometer which could be used for measuring uranium enrichment - a key stage in acquiring components for a nuclear bomb.
We were supplied with a mass of apparently high-quality intelligence from MI6, including surveillance details of a meeting in an Istanbul hotel between our pizza merchant and men involved in Iranian nuclear procurement.
I should make clear that we did not publish merely on the say-so of MI6. We travelled to Glasgow, confronted the pizza merchant, and only when he admitted that he had been dealing with representatives of the nuclear industry in Iran did we publish an article. In that story we made it plain that our target had been watched by Western intelligence.
Nevertheless, I felt uneasy, and vowed never to take part in such an exercise again. Although all parties, from the foreign editor down, behaved scrupulously, we had been obliged to conceal from our readers the full facts and had ended up, in effect, acting as government agents.
Now, after the Tomlinson/Shayler defections and the subsequent revelation of MI6's continuing I/Ops programme of which my Iranian experience was plainly a part, I think the cause of honest journalism is best served by candour. We all ought to come clean about these approaches, and devise some ethics to deal with them. In our vanity, we imagine that we control these sources. But the truth is that they are very deliberately seeking to control us.
The second intelligence tactic of manipulation which gives concern is the habit of allowing spies to write under false names. It was Tomlinson, I suspect, who, having worked in the area, first blew the whistle on this one. And it was a recently published book - MI6 by Stephen Dorril - which once again added the final piece of the jigsaw.
Two articles appeared in the Spectator in early 1994 under the byline Kenneth Roberts. They were datelined Sarajevo, and Roberts was described as having been working with the UN in Bosnia as an adviser. In fact, he was MI6 officer Keith Robert Craig (the pseudonym was a simple one), whose local cover was as a civilian "attached" to the British military unit's Balkan secretariat.
At the time, Bosnia was the site of attacks and atrocities from neighbouring Serbia, and also the focus of some passionate reporting from British journalists. The British military was there in a UN peacekeeping role, but anyone who read Roberts's articles might have begun to wonder whether it was not a better policy for British troops to go home and leave the Serbs a free hand.
The first article on February 5 rehearsed arguments for a UN withdrawal, pointing out that all sides committed atrocities. The second piece complained, baselessly, about "warped" and inaccurate reporting by journalists, including the BBC's Kate Adie.
It is possible, of course, that Craig was merely overcome with private literary urges whilst marooned in the Balkans, and thought it more politic to express his own opinions under a nom de plume . But one of the traditional roles of I/Ops is to plant stories. What is not clear is how the introduction to the Spectator was made, or whether Craig confided his real trade to the then editor of the Spectator, Dominic Lawson. In his recent book about MI6, Stephen Dorril points out that Dominic Lawson's brother-in-law, Anthony Monckton, was himself a serving MI6 officer, who was to take over the Zagreb station in the Balkans in 1996. (Rosa Monckton, his sister and Dominic Lawson's wife, was the late Princess Diana's close friend.)
These relationships - which the disenchanted Tomlinson knew all about because he had himself served undercover in the Balkans in the same time-frame - have only slowly emerged into the public domain. There is no reason to believe the then editor of the Spectator did anything improper at all, and certainly no reason to think that he was acting as an agent of MI6, whether paid or unpaid. But, as an editor, wittingly or not, it must be a bad idea to end up in a position where an MI6 officer is writing for your publication on matters of political controversy, under a false name.
The final malpractice which the Tomlinson/Shayler defections have brought to light is the continuing deliberate blurring by MI6 of the line between journalist and spy. This is an old crime - Kim Philby, former foreign correspondent of the Observer would have had plenty of stories to tell about that. But it should be exposed and stopped. Tomlinson himself, by his own account, spent six months in 1993 travelling around Croatia and Serbia trying to recruit informants, under the guise of a British journalist. Dorril, in his book, publishes the further assertion that the Spectator itself was unknowingly used as cover by no fewer than three MI6 officers working in Bosnia, Belgrade and Moldova.
The most dismaying allegation floated by Tomlinson was that he had heard within MI6 of a "national newspaper editor" who was used as an agent, and had received up to £100,000 in covert payments, accessed at an offshore bank, via a false passport obligingly supplied by MI6 itself. This claim set off a hue and cry, during which the hapless Dominic Lawson, now editor of the Sunday Telegraph, issued his denial, and other editors came under suspicious scrutiny.
In fact, I believe Tomlinson has been wrongly reported. Those who have talked to him in detail say that he has no first- hand knowledge, but merely knew of something a colleague obliquely mentioned. Hearing the words "editor" and "national newspaper", Tomlinson jumped to the wrong conclusion, and then started guessing. Spies are, after all, very like journalists in their methods - but merely less reliable. What those in the newspaper business know is that there is all the difference in the world between "the editor" and "an editor". Newspapers have, for example, education editors, environment editors and defence editors (not, I should say, that I have any evidence against any individual members of these categories).
And a senior journalist at that level - who could travel, see things, report back - would be of more practical use in the business of espionage than, say, the editor of any national newspaper. So the hunt is still on for the miscreant. And, make no mistake, this kind of behaviour by journalists is dangerous and wrong.
Our first task as practitioners is to document what goes on in this very furtive field. Our second task ought to be to hold an open debate on what the proper relations between the intelligence agencies and the media ought to be. And our final task must then be to find ways of actually behaving more sensibly.
This article appears in the current edition of the British Journalism Review. Copies, £4.95 from BR&D Ltd (01702 552912). www.bjr.org.uk
A VETERAN REPORTER formerly with the Times of India essentially called most of todays journalism mindless notetaking while speaking at the UBC School of Journalism.
Palagummi Sainath does not pull punches or waste words. "In my view, the bulk of what is happening in the press these days is stenography."
True journalism, he said, has morphed into corporate journalism. The cause of this transformation? Convergence of media ownership.
But even though Sainath condemned convergence as a global iniquity that has become as palpable as the air we breathe, his lecture on Nov. 9. was not all doom and gloom. The Eisenhower Fellowship winner offered the room of aspiring journalists a challenge if they had the nerve, they could reform an industry in dire need of regaining its independence.
Sainath himself came to this conclusion through introspection. "For the past eight or nine years I have been re-thinking my vocation," he said. "I think its important for journalists to do this, to ask ourselves, What the heck are we actually doing?"
His answer left the audience perplexed, even discouraged. Although the students were familiar with the concept of convergence, they were learning of its devastating effects from an experienced reporter who sees its effects each day.
"Film stars, CEOs, and the Indian beauty queens who were victorious in the Miss World and Miss Universe contests this is what were increasingly covering."
According to Sainath, the shift from hard-hitting, truth-seeking journalism to innocuous, promotional stenography goes hand in hand with the increase of convergence. In this new media world, a wealthy few not only own the press, but also suffocate its freedom by making sure everything printed or broadcast fits with their business interests.
"The defining character of the media [today] is a growing disconnection between mass media and mass reality," said Sainath. "These two are increasingly growing apart."
Sainath believes the headlock that international media barons have put on the press contributed to the 90s becoming "the time of the most gross social inequality since the Second World War." Referring to India, where the richest five per cent of the country owns the vast majority of the nations wealth, he said the nations press shows little concern for the plight of the poor.
"Film stars, CEOs, and the Indian beauty queens who were victorious in the Miss World and Miss Universe contests this is what were increasingly covering."
Sainath knows what it means to write and speak from a minority viewpoint.
Although he has written 40 articles on Indias rural poverty in the past three years, he works in an industry that would rather pretend social problems didnt exist.
"The [Indian] press does not have a single correspondent in a major paper who covers rural poverty," he said. "No one covers housing or unemployment or the 40 million job-seekers looking for work. But we do have a full-time correspondent covering golf."
But to think all is lost is to miss the point. What we should do, Sainath suggested, is look to the past. While todays headlines feature the power of media barons, history shows that influence was also wielded by a different kind of person: the independent-thinking journalist.
"Even the oldest cynic will tell you he got into journalism because he thought it meant something about connecting with society, about changing the world we live in today."
Sainath referred to Thomas Paine and Mark Twain to show how journalists can greatly influence public thought and opinion. Twains satire usually directed at institutions and establishments was legendary for both its quality and degree of impact. According to Sainath, it is still possible for journalists to have this impact, "to be a part of the solution."
The eternal question, of course, is whether or not reporters want to put themselves on the front line. Sainath admitted this type of reporter is hard to come by because the work can be dangerous. You will find yourself in trouble "wherever you challenge power," he said, but followed this warning with a challenge to "find the spaces that exist" to confront injustice. If you need to change your writing tactics to fight injustice, he added, do so.
Sainath ended his lecture on a poignant note. He predicted what would happen if someone walked into a newsroom and asked the reporters whether they had chosen journalism for the money. Not a single hand would go up.
"Even the oldest cynic will tell you he got into journalism because he thought it meant something about connecting with society, about changing the world we live in today."
* Alan Lodge see the rest of my web-site for details: from Stonehenge, the Battle of the Beanfield resulting in civil case, Reclaim the streets, Operation Nomad and yet another civil case., and bloody onwards ...!
* Ben Gibson of the Observer: Arrested for obstruction at the `Battle of the Beanfield' near Stonehenge. Charges later dropped.
* David Hoffman freelancer: Frequently arrested (and assaulted) by the Metropolitan Police. Welling east London, Poll tax riots, Dockers/Reclaim the Streets etc), Has been awarded damages against them.
* John Warburton freelance on job for Daily Telegraph, working with New Age Travellers in the SW England. Arrested while covering traveller site evictions.
* Nick Cobbing freelancer: Arrested and removed from scene while trying to cover the eviction of environmental protesters at proposed site of Manchester Airport. Again at an Animal rights demo, Oxford, June 18th etc
* John Fraser Williams HTV producer: sustained two broken ribs after being truncheoned while reporting on the Manchester Airport
* Roddy Mansfield of `Undercurrents' recently arrested for the sixth time while recording events at a street party by the group `Reclaim the Streets' in Bristol. Again at an Animal rights demo, Oxford. Shell HQ protest, London
* Simon Chapman (photographer) Arrested after covering a protest against genetically modified crops at Totnes , Devon. Deadlines missed, later released without charge.
* Ben Edwards (i-Contact Video) Arrested after covering a protest against genetically modified crops at Totnes , Devon. Tapes seized at time, deadlines missed, later released without charge.
* Ursuala Wills Jones and Justin Cooke reporter and photographer working for the Big Issue Manchester, charged with aggravated trespass while covering demonstration at open cast mine/
* Paul Smith photographer protest at proposed site of Manchester Airport. Charges latter dropped.
* Campbell Thomas daily mail freelance. Bilderberg meeting, Scotland 1998. charges dropped.
* Martin Palmer video journo from portsmouth. Hillgrove Farm, anti-vivsection protest. Tapes seized and returned 6 months later no explanation or charge.
* Maggie Lambert mature student at Newport College, charged with conspiracy to trespass while photographing anti-motorway protest at Twyford Down.
* John Harris and Neil Plumb photographers charged with trespass under Aviation Security Act after arrest at demonstration against veal export at Coventry Airport, Charges later dropped, compensation awarded.
* Rob Todd photographer raided for photographs of hunt sabs, Police used improper warrant (ignoring police and criminal evidence procedure for journalist material). When challenged, they gave him a choice of giving them what they wanted, or having all his film and equipment seized.
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