O'Reilly accuses certain media of playing '21st-century blood sport'

Tue, Dec 11, 2007, 00:00

The Information Commissioner and Ombudsman has criticised sections of the Irish media for what she referred to as "a 21st-century blood sport" in hunting down their intended prey.

Emily O'Reilly was speaking in Limerick yesterday where she launched new undergraduate and post graduate courses in journalism, due to begin at the University of Limerick next September.

The former journalist said: "Every journalistic era has its own story. The current breaking story of Irish journalism is of a profession that by and large continues to do its job ethically and well, that continues in a fundamental task of making government accountable, but part of which has also been infected by a cynicism so profound that it can dehumanise everything it touches."

She said she hoped that future graduates of the courses would not be drawn into a "race to the bottom" when it comes to what passes for good journalism.

"Some media here and abroad, in a practice more insidious than the glorification of vacuous celebrity, occasionally target individuals for attack, like hunters with their prey," she said.

"It is a 21st century blood sport, executed for the purposes of titillation with an autistic unawareness on the part of those carrying it out, of the hurt inflicted on those whose prey they are," she said.

Ms O'Reilly said part of the media had become infected by a profound cynicism that "can dehumanise everything it touches".

Ms O'Reilly said Irish society itself had become so comfortable in its prosperity that it supported a media that increasingly viewed both serious and not so serious events as entertainment.

She also criticised the lifting of the tawdry and debased into the realms of "glamour" which was damaging for society.

"Those who seek out the humiliation of public or private figures as part of their work are in turn dehumanised by what they do . . . They frequently failed to see the public point of what they were doing, yet for the sake of their job and income they felt they had no choice," she said.

According to Ms O'Reilly, John Horgan who was recently appointed press ombudsman had received "the most difficult job in Ireland" and will have his work cut out for him as he attempts to mediate disputes and deal with complaints.

She said she expected many impassioned pleas about what constitutes "legitimate" intrusion. "The Government, many of whose members are privately, even publicly sceptical about the venture, will also be keeping a very beady eye on what transpires," she added.

UL is the first third level college outside Dublin to offer undergraduate and postgraduate degrees in journalism.