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THE independent regulator for the newspaper industry has ruled the Irish News did not breach its code of conduct in the reporting of the murder of former IRA member Kevin McGuigan.
A complaint was made to the Independent Press Standards Organisation (IPSO) in relation to coverage of the murder of IRA commander Gerard 'Jock' Davison last May and the subsequent reprisal shooting of the Short Strand man in August 2015.
The anonymous complainant claimed it was in breach of the IPSO code of conduct to describe Mr McGuigan as a “former IRA killer”, since he had never been convicted of any killings and argued the article represented an intrusion into his family life and had put his life in danger.
However, in investigating the coverage of the murder, IPSO found that police had visited Mr McGuigan’s home, and had told him that republicans were planning to attack him prior to the Irish News publication.
IPSO also noted that while there was a conflict as to whether claims of his involvement in the leadership of the Direct Action Against Drugs had been substantiated, "it was not in dispute that Mr McGuigan had been a prominent figure within paramilitary organisations, including the IRA, and had been given a lengthy prison sentence for his involvement in the brutal kidnapping of a Territorial Army soldier".
"In the context of this conviction and the wider allegations about his activities and associations, it was not significantly misleading for the newspaper to characterise him as 'ex-IRA killer'."
"While the committee understood the complainant's concern that the 20 May article had put Mr McGuigan’s life in danger, Mr McGuigan had been aware of threats to his life before its publication.
"The publication of the story did not represent a failure to respect his private life in breach of Clause 3", the IPSO committee ruled.
Irish News editor Noel Doran said; "It is essential that the truth is established over acts of murder, whether they happened recently or go back a matter of decades, and the IPSO ruling represents an important vindication of our investigative journalism.
"It also comes just weeks after another significant High Court case when we were able to successful defend our right to publish an interview about the 1976 Kingsmill massacre which set out the position of a key suspect.
"Both these developments deserve to be strongly welcomed by all those who value the freedom of the press", Mr Doran added.
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