Dublin-based reporters, some of whom are under death threats from armed criminal gangs, have told MediaGuardian that the Irish police force, Garda Siochána, has questioned them about police contacts, threatened them with arrest and has been checking their mobile phone calls to suspected sources.
One reporter said he has been questioned 30 times in just over a decade and was under sustained pressure to reveal his sources.
Ian Mallon, the deputy editor of Dublin’s Evening Herald newspaper, said the gardaí appeared more interested in who was the source of his stories than in acting against a crime boss who put a €20,000 (£16,000) bounty on the head of his colleague Mick McCaffrey.
Mallon described the Garda’s ongoing pursuit of journalists’ sources in the Republic as “Stasi-like”.
The human rights organisation Index on Censorship said the Irish Republic’s 2005 Garda Siochána Act, especially clause 62 of the legislation outlawing most rank and file police contact with the media, was “not the behaviour of a European democracy”.
Under the act, Irish police officers who speak to journalists without authorisation from their superiors can face fines of up to €75,000, dismissal from the force or even seven years in prison.
Index on Censorship described the act and the recent upsurge in gardaí pursuing journalists over their sources as akin to “the kind of behaviour one would expect in an unreconstructed dictatorship”.
An Index spokesman, Padraig Reidy, said: “Reporters should not be forced to operate in fear of police surveillance.”