Women working in the media suffer more abuse for reporting on paramilitaries than their male counterparts, a Sunday World newspaper journalist has said.
Patricia Devlin has received multiple death threats – including two within 12 hours – and was recently the subject of “sinister graffiti” in east Belfast.
Last year she lodged an official complaint against the police for a “complete failure” to properly investigate a threat to rape her baby.
She said the attacks are escalating.
Speaking to BBC News NI, Ms Devlin said female reporters were more frequently threatened for their work.
“Male journalists who do the same job as me, who have written closer to the bone about paramilitaries, do not get the same level of abuse,” she said.
“I suppose these people think that these women are an easier target.”
Ms Devlin was informed of the first threat against her life in April last year.
The threats have been extended to her family, including her baby son – that threat is the subject of a police investigation.
‘Won’t give up my job’
The attacks have been “never-ending”, she said.
“Unfortunately it’s escalated and now we’re seeing my name on walls in east Belfast with a picture of a crosshair.
“It’s almost like we’re going back in time, that we’re not in a society that’s going forward.”
Ms Devlin said she has been warned her work could be used to entrap her.
The most recent threat against her life had included the location of where she would be killed.
Her family has asked her to reconsider her role in journalism but they also understand why she has continued in it, she said.
“They don’t want to lose me – I don’t want to lose my life.
“I do my job to help others, to give people a voice – many of the people I speak to are too scared to speak out because they’ve been intimidated and attacked.
“I won’t be giving up my job because it does make a difference and my worry is that Friday’s threat was not only a threat to me but it was a threat to all media workers.”
She said her attackers had been able to act with impunity and she called on the PSNI to take action.
“The fact that these people are targeting journalists who are giving a voice to these people who are being intimidated, it’s scary because if we don’t have journalists to do that, who do we have?”
‘It’s not natural’
Police have said they are investigating three incidents of graffiti that appeared at locations in east Belfast.
A spokesperson added: “We do not discuss the security of individuals however we never ignore anything which may put an individual at risk.”
The threats have been condemned by the National Union for Journalists (NUJ), with Irish secretary Seamus Dooley telling Good Morning Ulster that it was a “shocking indictment” of the situation in Northern Ireland.
“There is now a situation where what are considered low-level threats are almost considered part of the job,” he said.
“This is the only part of Europe that I know where journalists almost expect low-level threats – it’s not natural, it is not inevitable and we must get angry about this.
“It isn’t natural that a young woman, trying to her job in the public interest, receives threats like this.
“We need at the highest level, we need police and civic society and the Office of the First and Deputy First Minister to grab these threats by the scruff of the neck and solve the problem.”