Media's role vital to liberty, says Dunne


FREEDOM WOULD mean less without a free media, entrepreneur Ben Dunne told a seminar organised in Cork yesterday by the Press Council of Ireland.

Mr Dunne defined the media as being a form of “organised gossip”. However, he said the media was also the bar of freedom in a democracy, serving as a conduit between regular people and the powers that be.

“It exposes mistakes. It probes actions. It presents alternatives. Without a free media, freedom would have far less meaning. The common good is served by an independent and principled media.”

Mr Dunne said some of the news he was in involved in “wasn’t very nice” but unfortunately it was nearly always true.

“What I believe is that you must take the good with the bad and if you do that there is no need to cut yourself away from the media”. Mr Dunne said lines existed which the media should not cross and needless heartache ought to be avoided if possible.

He condemned the broadcast of the Brian Lenihan story on TV3 on December 26th, saying that it “crossed a line it did not need to cross”. However, he added that TV3 was not the only offender in relation to breaches of privacy.

Another speaker, Data Protection Commissioner Billy Hawkes, told the seminar that the phenomenal development of the internet posed challenges to traditional ideas of privacy and data protection. Mr Hawkes highlighted particular challenges to applying our data protection laws on the internet. Data protection laws are national or, at best, regional. But major internet companies operate on a global basis.

As many such companies have their European headquarters in Ireland, Mr Hawkes said his office had a particular responsibility to help them comply with European norms of data protection. He emphasised the urgency of developing global privacy and data protection norms, to match the global reach of the internet.

Tightening privacy laws is a recipe for “non-accountability, secrecy and duplicity”, the seminar was told by Paul Drury, managing editor of the Irish Daily Mail, who added that he was wary of any proposal to legislate for heightened privacy.