24 August 2005

Probe pledged into 'sectarian' radio content


24/08/2005 - 18:16:53

Internet authorities tonight pledged to probe any fears about an online radio station allegedly glorifying loyalist terrorists.

SDLP Assembly member John Dallat has demanded the shutdown of a website he believes is trying to recruit teenage paramilitaries.

The East Londonderry MLA has also urged Chief Constable Hugh Orde to move against Loyalist FM.

The site claims to be promoting loyalist culture by playing music and providing entertainment for the 1,080 registered users.

But its online jukebox contains songs where a father implores his sons to take his gun and fight as Ulster Defence Association men, and another portraying a 16-year-old taking up a rifle on behalf of the YCV – the Ulster Volunteer Force’s youth wing.

Mr Dallat said: “Given the countless massacres that loyalist paramilitaries have been involved in, this is obviously just about incitement to hatred and lawlessness.

“I have written to the chief constable, drawing his attention to it and suggesting it was a recruiting agent for the worst kind of paramilitaries.”

The website is hosted by Preston-based firm Pogga.

Stephen Johnston, the company’s customer service representative, stressed it was only responsible for literature on the site.

Checks carried out with the UK-wide National High-Tech Crime Unit assured them it was legal to carry the text as long as it contained no incitement to violence or hatred, he said.

Mr Johnston insisted: “We don’t host the music played.

He added, however: “We have not received any complaints against the website, but if we did we would look into them.

“If they were valid we will take the site down.”

FDC Servers in Chicago, which hosts the music played, could not be contacted for comment.

A Police Service of Northern Ireland spokeswoman insisted the force would probe any alleged online crimes.

She said: “The PSNI do not routinely monitor the internet.

“However, when a suspected criminal offence is reported to us we will always investigate.”

No-one involved with the website was available for comment, but in its freedom of speech section Mr Dallat came under fire.

“Nowhere on this website do we glorify any illegal organisation. On construction of this site the management team were specific and thorough with relation to that point. We do not and have not at any time ever played any role in recruiting for illegal organisations,” it said.

“The only message we convey is our belief that as Ulster citizens we have every right to be proud of our British culture and way of life. Surely Mr Dallat striving to be a confident pluralist and non-sectarian should accept our right to this?

“We do not display or advertise any propaganda related to any illegal organisation. LFM is run and financed by its listeners.

“We sell CDs produced by bands from across the UK to people from all over the world, who enjoy the cultural music Mr Dallat so obviously abhors.

“The internet is open to everyone the same as freedom of speech. Who is the bigot here?

“A station promoting culture, not denying the violent past the people of Ulster have endured over 30 years, including all in the loyalist community, addressing the good and bad, reflecting on all aspects through both song and chat?”

It also called on the SDLP man to express the same outrage at sites supporting republican paramilitaries.

Mr Dallat insisted he would not hesitate to criticise evenly.

“There are equally shocking republican websites. One, for example, openly encourages recruitment to the youth wing of the Continuity IRA.

“This is about turning them into child soldiers. It is about child abuse.”

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