Belfast Project: Anthony McIntyre’s Suspension by the National Union of Journalists Reversed

Back in March I reported on the National Union of Journalists Ethics Council’s decision to suspend Anthony McIntyre on account of an article he had written published supposedly implying that journalist Allison Morris was a police informer and an agent of the British state; Morris has said she believed the article put her life in danger.

An NUJ appellate tribunal has now reversed the suspension. It ruled that the Ethics Council had failed to pursue “opportunities for conciliation or mediation.” On the substance, the tribunal held that McIntyre had not unethically failed to distinguish fact from opinion, since the article, in its view, was “clearly an expression of opinion.”

The tribunal’s decision doesn’t explain the reasons for dismissing the other two charges—that McIntyre had not tried to ensure that the information in the article was “honestly conveyed, accurate and fair” and that he had not failed to do “his utmost to correct harmful inaccuracies.” It may be that on those charges, it was the procedural problem—the failure to pursue opportunities for conciliation or mediation—that saved the day for McIntyre. In any event, the tribunal found that the six-month suspension was an excessive penalty.

Interestingly, neither Morris nor the other complainant, Ciaran Barnes, appeared at the appellate hearing. I think some explanation of this is in order.

About Ted Folkman

Ted Folkman is a shareholder with Murphy & King, a Boston law firm, where he has a complex business litigation practice. He is the author of International Judicial Assistance (MCLE 2d ed. 2016), a nuts-and-bolts guide to international judicial assistance issues, and of the chapter on service of process in the ABA's forthcoming treatise on International Aspects of US Litigation, and he is the publisher of Letters Blogatory, the Web's first blog devoted to international judicial assistance, which the ABA recognized as one of the best 100 legal blogs in 2012, 2014, and 2015.

20 thoughts on “Belfast Project: Anthony McIntyre’s Suspension by the National Union of Journalists Reversed

  1. Ted, thanks for covering this. The initial article was not written by me but by another blogger which he in turn asked me to reproduce. The Appeals Tribunal found I had no case to answer on any of the charges. It found that the article at the centre of this was opinion. The case was won on pure logic and not technicalities.

    1. Thanks for commenting! I have re-read the decision and do not see a substantive explanation for the decision on Rules 2 and 3. Was this something that the tribunal discussed orally at the hearing?

      You are right that I should have written “published” instead of “written.”

      1. Ted,

        it lies in the fact that it is opinion rather than reporting which preculdes the issues raised in 2 and 3.

  2. Ted, I didn’t attend because of work commitments, I’m a working journalist July is one of my busiest months. Also financially we had to fund the trip ourselves including flights and hotels, as a single parent I couldn’t justify the expense.

    At the original ethics committee hearing conciliatory attempts were made but everything suggested was rejected by Anthony. They left us in a room for an hour and a half to try and reach a compromise but to no avail.

    All I wanted him to do was publish the affidavit submitted to the Belfast High Court last September in which it was made clear that with his assistance Ed Moloney interviewed Dolours Price in 2010 on camera within days of my interview, despite slanderously claiming for the past three years that I spoke to her while she was mentally incapacitated.

    I thought this would provide balance to the other more personal and malicious articles.

    Anthony point blank refused to do this, only he can explain why both himself and Moloney have been so reluctant to publicly accept that they interviewed Dolours in 2010 and why they continue to cover up/gloss over this fact.

    I didn’t ask for an apology, I didn’t ask for censorship of his blog all I asked was that he stopped placing the lives of me and my children at risk by posting slanderous and untrue allegations claiming I was a police informer which I saw to be in breach of the NUJ code of conduct.

    I’m still confused as to why Anthony was so keen, at a fair bit of financial cost to himself, to be reinstated to a union he treats with such contempt and called a ‘bastion of wankerdom’ and akin to the ‘igloo builders of the Sahara.’

    As it was in the absence of the two complainants the appeal went in his favour, I accept the NUJ decision, unlike Anthony I’ve a lot of respect for my union.

    Regards,

    Allison

    1. Thanks for the comment, Allison! Do you think the appellate hearing would have come out differently if your views had been represented there? That was really the reason why I pointed out your absence.

      1. Impossible to say, but I’d like to think that the union would have listened to my concerns, what jumps out at me is that Anthony has tried to make out I called for his suspension or censorship.

        I did no such thing all I asked was that he abide by the same code of conduct that I as a newspaper reporter abide by.

        If bloggers are to be welcome in the NUJ—and I think they should be—they have to be subject to the same guidelines as the rest of us. Freedom of speech does not mean being able to say what you like about who you like regardless of how untrue, dangerous, defamatory it is. We all have moral and social constraints placed upon us to stop language being used that is dangerous and puts the lives of others at risk.

        Anthony has also been economical with the truth in slandering me about the 2010 interview with Dolours while covering up the fact that he and Moloney interviewed her within days of me speaking to her. Strange behaviour for a man who claims to be so keen on openness, transparency and freedom of speech.

  3. Hi Ted,

    I was unable to attend the hearing because I was suffering from chickenpox.

    I was only able to return to work on July 30 as a result of this illness, having been off sick for the previous two and a half weeks.

    It was made clear to the NUJ the week before the hearing that I was unwell and unable to attend, yet the appeal went ahead in my absence.

    Ciaran

    1. Thanks, Ciaran, I hope you’re feeling better.

      Is it your view that it was improper to go ahead with the hearing in your absence? I don’t know what rules govern these proceedings. I could imagine either outcome.

      1. The fact I was unable to offer evidence at the appeal hearing certainly had a major bearing on the outcome.

        I would have liked it to be postponed, but that wasn’t a decision for me to make.

    1. Ted,
      I said I couldn’t justify spending the money to go to London, what I do with my time off after that isn’t relevant or anyone’s business. I’m not sure why Anthony picked up on this point but fails to address the other more important aspects of my post re the 2010 Dolours Price interview. As I said I accept the NUJ ruling and am happy to leave it at that, the creepy and rather obsessive way Anthony appears to be now stalking me would indicate he’s unable to do the same.
      Allison

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