Journalist pledges to defy death-case ruling

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The Independent Online
ED MOLONEY, a Northern Irish journalist, vowed last night to fight a judge's ruling ordering him to hand over notes of an interview with a loyalist now charged with the murder of the Catholic solicitor Patrick Finucane in Belfast.

Mr Moloney, the Northern Ireland editor of the Dublin-based Sunday Tribune, was yesterday given seven days to give police the original notes of a 1990 interview with William Stobie, who was charged with the 1989 murder in June this year. The Belfast recorder, Judge Anthony Hart, sitting in Antrim Crown Court, ruled there were reasonable grounds that Mr Moloney's original notes of the interview, finally published days after Mr Stobie was charged, might materially assist police, and therefore disclosure of the notes was necessary for the investigation.

The judge said: "This necessity is so strong that it outweighs the competing high public interest in preserving journalistic sources in the circumstances of the present case, not least because the nature and content of that material has been placed in the public domain at the behest of a self- confessed participant in the events surrounding the death of Mr Finucane.

"By doing so Stobie cannot be legitimately considered to have been, nor can anyone in a similar position in the future be deterred from imparting such information by the fear of his identity, or the details, becoming public.

"In such circumstances Stobie has effectively abandoned any protection for his information which the law might otherwise consider, and the balance of the competing public interest is in favour of the order sought by the applicant being granted."

Mr Stobie has admitted involvement in the killing by providing and disposing of the weapon used. He has denied any direct role in the killing itself or knowing that Mr Finucane was the target.

Mr Moloney said he would continue to fight the case. He said his decision not to hand over the material stood, citing later that he feared he might be a target for paramilitary attack because he would be viewed as "nothing more than a police informer".

He could face up to five years' imprisonment and/or a heavy fine if he fails to hand over the notes or win the legal battle to keep them secret.

Outside the court, Mr Moloney said: "It is our duty as journalists to protect confidential sources of information."

He said the basis of his stand was clear. "That I acted as a journalist, I can only act as a journalist. If we start acting as detectives or gatherers of information for the courts then we cease to be journalists and the media stops being a watchdog of this society or any society."