An Irish journalist has refused to heed demands from the Police Service of Northern Ireland who want her to release information on her sources in the dissident republican group, the Real IRA.
The police want information for their investigation into the murder of two British soldiers in March.
Suzanne Breen, the northern editor of a Dublin-based paper The Sunday Tribune, has vowed to protect her sources’ identity and said she would refuse to hand over information relating to them to the police.
A Belfast judge has said that part of her case will be heard in secret.
However, Judge Tom Burgess said Tuesday that he had not yet made a decision on whether to grant an application by the police ordering Breen to hand over the information.
Breen’s lawyers have yet to put forward their arguments for dismissing the application.
"Where I will be after I hear your argument could be in a completely different place altogether,” the judge told her attorney Tuesday.
"I have a totally open mind as to where this case is going to end up."
Breen told the London paper, The Guardian, "There are two issues at stake here. The first is the necessity of any journalist not to reveal their sources and I want to stress that I will not reveal my sources. The second issue is about my right to life and my personal safety.
“If I handed over any material I would be putting myself in danger. The Real IRA has already said that anyone dealing with the police vis-a-vis republicans are guilty of treachery.
"It is disgraceful that in the so-called new Northern Ireland a journalist could face imprisonment or have their safety compromised over the protection of sources."
Breen faces a heavy fine or a jail sentence if she refuses the hand over the information. This also includes information on the Real IRA murder of Denis Donaldson in 2006, after the former Sinn Fein administrator had been exposed as being a British spy for many years.
The Belfast journalist had also received a call from a Real IRA member who claimed responsibility for the murders of two British soldiers – the first British soldiers to be murdered in Northern Ireland in over a decade – in March.
Noirin Hegarty, the editor of The Sunday Tribune, told IrishCentral that her paper is “fully supportive” of Breen.
“We are defending her and will continue to do so. A very important principle of journalism is at stake as well as a potentially significant threat to her life should we hand over material to the Police Service of Northern Ireland.
“Our stories were clearly in the public interest and we will continue to uphold journalistic ethics and the protection of sources to the highest level.”
The National Union of Journalists in Ireland has also come to the defense of Breen.
Seamus Dooley, the organization’s secretary, said: “If the police begin to use journalists as a tool intelligence gathering, sources won’t have confidence that they can speak openly to the press. That means stories will go uncovered and journalists will be put in physical danger.
Dooley added that the fact that the case was being held behind closed doors was “deeply worrying.”