Martin calls for media regulation

 

Archbishop of Dublin Diarmuid Martin has called for independent regulation of the media.

Speaking earlier today, Dr Martin also criticised broadcaster RTÉ over the time it took them to admit that it had wrongly accused Co Galway priest Fr Kevin Reynolds of sexually abusing a teenager and fathering a child while working in Africa 30 years ago.

In an interview broadcast on RTÉ radio this morning, Dr Martin said there was a need to ensure a "basic balance between the right to investigate and press freedom and the protection of the rights of individuals".

He said news organisations must learn from the Reynolds case but denied suggestions that there was an anti-Catholic bias in the media.

"Press freedom is a vital element of our society. Investigative journalism has done much good for our society, but we need to have forms of regulation which are independent and we need a broad discussion in Ireland about how we manage these".

A number of investigations into the libelling of Fr Reyonds on the Prime Time Investigates programme Mission to Prey, which was broadcast on May 21st, 2011, are under way.

In addition, the Broadcasting Authority of Ireland is meeting this morning to consider Minister for Communications Pat Rabbitte’s request that it inquire into the circumstances of the broadcaster's defamation of the Co Galway priest.

Dr Martin said he did not want to see any "muzzling of the press" but wanted to guarantee that incidents such as the Fr Reynolds case did not happen again

RTÉ recently said it is bound by the terms of an out-of-court settlement from disclosing the libel payment it made to the priest for defamation arising from the programme. The action for libel made over the programme is believed to have resulted in a seven-figure settlement by RTÉ in favour of Fr Reynolds.

The managing director of RTÉ news and current affairs, Ed Mulhall, and the editor of the Prime Time Investigates programme, Ken O’Shea, have stepped aside from their posts until the conclusion of the inquiries into the libel case.

In addition, reporter Aoife Kavanagh and executive producer Brian Páircéir will not be involved in any on-air programming until the inquiry is completed.

RTÉ rebroadcast its apology to Fr Reynolds on Friday night following criticism of the original apology, broadcast on November 17th.

The first broadcast of the “correction order” demanded by the High Court after RTÉ settled the case was criticised by viewers, who said it was read out at speed and in a monotone.