'Star' editor suspended as closure threat lifted

Tue, Sep 18, 2012, 01:00

THE EDITOR of the Irish Daily Star was suspended yesterday pending a joint investigation by the tabloid’s shareholders into the publication on Saturday of photographs showing the Duchess of Cambridge, Kate Middleton, sunbathing topless.

Michael O’Kane, appointed to the post last November, was suspended with immediate effect by Independent Star Ltd, which publishes the daily newspaper.

This appears to have lifted the threat of “immediate” closure, which UK media baron Richard Desmond had issued on Saturday evening.

Mr Desmond controls UK media group Northern Shell, which jointly owns the Irish Daily Star with Independent News Media in Ireland.

Northern Star owns the Daily Star in the UK, which did not publish the pictures.

Up to 120 staff, who are employed either directly or indirectly by the Irish tabloid, faced the prospect of losing their jobs following Mr Desmond’s strong statement over the weekend.

“I can’t do more than close it,” Mr Desmond had said.

INM had reacted by saying Mr Desmond’s call to close the paper was “disproportionate to a poor editorial decision” that was made without reference to the shareholders. The row surrounds the decision by the Irish Daily Star to re-publish pages from the French magazine Closer, which contained images of the duke and duchess of Cambridge sunbathing. These pictures were taken from some distance away.

In a statement last night, Independent Star Ltd said it would make no further comment “pending conclusion of the joint investigation by the newspaper’s shareholders”. Northern Shell last night directed queries to Independent Star Ltd.

Ger Colleran, managing director of Independent Star Ltd, could not be reached for comment. A board meeting planned for today was cancelled. It was not clear last night how long the investigation by the shareholders might last or who will sit in judgment on Mr O’Kane.

In a statement last night, the National Union of Journalists warned against a “knee-jerk reaction” to the publication of pictures.

The NUJ’s Irish secretary, Seamus Dooley, said the threat of privacy legislation by Minister for Justice Alan Shatter was “a worrying development with serious implications”.

“Mr Shatter is again threatening to revisit a deeply flawed piece of legislation,” Mr Dooley added. “The Privacy Bill was shelved some years ago after it had been comprehensively discredited. It would serve to undermine freedom of expression and protect those anxious to avoid media scrutiny.

“Mr Shatter should not punish the Irish media based on one episode involving members of the British royal family.”