Chairman upholds right of journalist to comment

 

The chairman of the tribunal said yesterday he did not think it would be appropriate for him to ask journalist Frank Connolly to desist from commenting on the tribunal's proceedings merely because he was a witness.

Mr Justice Flood gave a ruling following an objection by counsel for JMSE to comments made by Mr Connolly, of the Sunday Business Post, on Today FM last Thursday.

After citing a number of legal precedents on the role of the media, the chairman said in the present situation Mr Connolly was the journalist who first published Mr Gogarty's story in 1996, and as a result, Mr Connolly had become involved as a witness as to the facts. Mr Connolly was a working journalist, who commented daily on the programme. The chairman said it seemed to him it would not be appropriate for him to direct that Mr Connolly should desist from commenting on the proceedings of the tribunal in his capacity as a journalist merely because he was a witness in respect of certain factual events.

Clearly it was in everybody's interest, including Mr Connolly's, that any comments he made were accurate and confined to the actual evidence which had been before the tribunal. Tribunal proceedings were not the subject of the sub judice rule, and this was not a situation where a jury might be inappropriately influenced. He did not propose to make any form of order on the matter.