Northern Ireland: New arrests highlight continued need for justice for Lyra McKee

The arrests of four additional suspects in connection with the 2019 killing of journalist Lyra McKee in Derry are a welcome step, but highlight the continued need for justice for her murder. Reporters Without Borders (RSF) continues to campaign for justice for McKee and steps to improve the climate for safety of journalists in Northern Ireland.

UPDATE: Two of the men arrested on 15 September were later charged on alleged riot offences. Further arrests have since been carried out. On 1 October, two men, aged 44 and 53, were detained under the Terrorism Act, followed by another arrest of a 63 year-old man on 4 October, and a further three men on 5 October, aged 36, 39 and 45. As of 5 October, eight men have so far been charged in connection with the events surrounding Lyra McKee's murder - three with McKee's murder, and five with rioting and associated offences.

The Police Service of Northern Ireland (PSNI) confirmed that four men - ages 19, 20, 21 and 33 - were arrested on 15 September in relation to the April 2019 murder of journalist Lyra McKee, who was killed observing rioting in the Creggan area of Derry. They have not yet been charged. The latest arrests follow the February 2020 arraignment of Paul McIntyre, who is currently out on bail awaiting trial in connection with McKee’s murder.

“We welcome the apparent progress in the investigation into the murder of journalist Lyra McKee, but are concerned that there has still not been justice nearly two and a half years on. Delayed justice has only contributed to a worrying overall climate for media in Northern Ireland, where concrete measures are urgently needed to ensure the safety of journalists,” said Rebecca Vincent, Director of International Campaigns and UK Bureau Director.

Ahead of the second anniversary of her killing in April 2021, McKee’s family members issued a public appeal in their campaign for justice, writing 8,000 letters to local residents and erecting billboards around Derry, calling for anyone with information to come forward. 

RSF continues to raise concerns about the worrying press freedom climate in Northern Ireland, which remains the most dangerous place for journalists to do their jobs in the UK -- particularly those covering paramilitary activities and organised crime. In a dispatch following a mission to Belfast and Derry in March 2020, RSF issued a series of recommendations to the UK government to improve the climate for safety of journalists in Northern Ireland, and continues to advocate for their implementation.

The UK is ranked 33rd out of 180 countries in RSF’s 2021 World Press Freedom Index. McKee’s murder marked a low point for press freedom in the UK, where a journalist had not been killed in the line of duty since the assassination of Martin O’Hagan in September 2001.

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Updated on 05.10.2021