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Photojournalist shot in Northern Ireland violence

(IPI/IFEX) - 22 June 2011 - The International Press Institute (IPI) today condemned the shooting of a photojournalist in Belfast, Northern Ireland. The news photographer, from Britain's Press Association, was shot in the leg Tuesday night, the second day of sectarian clashes between Protestants and Catholics.

The Press Association's Deputy Ireland Editor Steven McCafferty confirmed to IPI that the photographer was on staff at the agency but declined to release his name. The Belfast Telegraph, however, has identified him as Niall Carson. According to reports, the photographer was taken to the Royal Victoria Hospital in Belfast where he remained in stable condition. The Police Service of Northern Ireland (PSNI) are launching an investigation into whether he was an intended target and are treating the case as attempted murder.

"We condemn in the strongest possible terms this shooting, and welcome the police's treatment of it as attempted murder," said IPI Press Freedom Manager Anthony Mills. "It is vital that the perpetrators of such violence be brought to justice, so that we don't have an environment in which people feel that they can get away with this kind of act."

The shooting occurred in Belfast's Newtownards Road-Short Strand area, the small Catholic community where police estimated around 700 people had gathered. Along with the gunfire, which injured two other men, rioters also hurled stones, fireworks, bricks and petrol bombs at each other and police. "The next thing I know a colleague of mine, he yells, 'I've been shot, I've been shot,'" another photographer who witnessed the shooting told the BBC. "I don't know if he was grazed, or if the bullet went in or what, but I looked at his trousers and his trousers were all stained . . . It was obviously blood."

Violence erupted in eastern Belfast on Monday night after Irish Republican Party Sinn Fein claimed attacks on Catholic homes had been initiated by the loyalist paramilitary group Ulster Volunteer Force (UVF). Government officials expressed concern over the recent unrest, which, despite the UVF's decommissioning of weapons in 2009, is the worst violence between Protestant and Catholic groups since the Good Friday agreement ended Northern Ireland's 30-year conflict in 1998.

The last noted attack on a journalist in Northern Ireland occurred in 2001 when Irish investigative reporter Martin O'Hagan of Dublin's Sunday World was gunned down in the town of Lurgan, County Armagh.

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