Documentary filmmaker Alex Gibney fears arrest after Trevor Birney and Barry McCaffrey, two journalists who worked on his 2017 film, No Stone Unturned, were put into custody when over 100 officers raided their homes and office in Belfast last month.
No Stone Unturned tells the story of a mass shooting on June 18, 1994, when six people were killed in a pub in Northern Ireland. The film identifies the shooters and alleges systemic corruption by police and government officials as well as collusion with paramilitary groups.
A letter from a suspect’s wife, along with documents leaked to Gibney and his team, helped build their argument. Gibney says a crucial PONI report was sent to McCaffrey in a brown paper wrapper. The police arrested Birney and McCaffrey under suspicion they stole these documents. After questioning, the two were released with potential charges to follow.
Gibney could be next. The police in Northern Ireland assert that making the name of the suspected killer public puts him in danger.
“We not only reached out to this guy — Ronnie Hawthorne, the suspected killer — and his wife to see if they would talk to us, but we also informed the Police Ombudsmen, and we informed the police, that they were going to be named,” Gibney told Deadline. “So, obviously, there are tensions involved here, but sometimes you make a call as to whether or not it better serves the public interest to actually name somebody in order to try to get done what the police were either unwilling or unable to do, which is to hold someone to account for these murders.”
Gibney believes this is a sensitive time for the police to be targeting the press in such a way, what he calls an act of intimidation.
“This is a time when journalists are put in jail for eight years in Myanmar, for a violation of a so-called Official Secrets Act, for reporting on the massacre of Rohingya. When President Trump in this country is vilifying reporters and trying to suggest more Draconian measures might be taken to silence them from reporting on secrets. It all comes at a critical moment in time.”
However, Gibney refuses to back down for the sake of truth, an idea that many in power are trying to diminish.
“What we discovered in making the film was that we actually, we think, solved the crime. Now, there’s not been any kind of criminal indictment or conviction, but we found the people we believe were the likely suspects to have committed this murder, and we find the evidence to be pretty compelling. We also find the evidence about the cover-up by the police to be absolutely appalling and going way beyond the Police Ombudsmen report.”
Read the full interview with Deadline on the matter here.
Gibby’s other works include Going Clear: Scientology and the Prison of Belief, Enron: The Smartest Guys in the Room and Taxi to the Dark Side. The latter won an Oscar. Gibney along with Birney and McCaffrey will screen No Stone Unturned at the Stranger Than Fiction documentary series at the IFC Center in New York on October 9th.