New INM charter restricts 'adversarial material'
Independent News & Media has drawn up a new editorial charter that requires journalists to get the written approval of the managing editor before writing any “sustained or repeated adversarial material concerning individuals or organisations”.
Under INM’s new charter, which has been seen by The Irish Times, any “breach of code in the editorial charter” would result in an investigation process being conducted by the company.
This, in turn, could lead to a disciplinary procedure being invoked, with the ultimate sanction being dismissal for the individuals concerned.
“Final adjudication” on any appeal of this process would “reside” with the group chief executive [Vincent Crowley] or a nominated deputy.
The 39-point charter was drawn up by INM’s human resources department and circulated to senior staff recently.
Clause seven deals with “fairness” – “Journalists will strive to be fair in affording individuals or organisations the right of pre-publication response,” it states. “A decision not to afford such a right of response will only be taken with the written approval of the editor or designated editorial executive.”
It then adds: “Sustained or repeated adversarial editorial material concerning individuals or organisations will only be maintained on the basis of justification in the public interest with the written approval of the managing editor.”
INM’s managing editor is Michael Denieffe, a long serving executive with the group.
In a statement about the new editorial code, INM said: “This charter puts structures in place to ensure editorial fairness; nothing more and nothing less.”
Denis O’Brien owns just under 30 per cent of INM. It is known that Mr O’Brien has been unhappy about coverage of his business affairs by the Sunday Independent.
In an interview with The Irish Times in April 2012, Mr O’Brien’s long-time associate Lesley Buckley, who at that time had been ousted from the INM board, described as “appalling” the negative coverage of Mr O’Brien in the Sunday Independent of April 1st, when multiple negative stories about the entrepreneur were published.
“It’s very clearly part of a campaign against Denis O’Brien,” Mr Buckley said.
The interview was conducted four months before Mr Buckley became INM’s chairman.
The Sunday Independent has continued to write negatively about Mr O’Brien since he ousted former chairman James Osborne at the company’s AGM in June 2012. Mr Buckley was appointed as chairman.
The charter applies to those involved in INM’s newspapers, periodicals, and online and digital platforms in Ireland.