Dáil debate focuses on Defamation Bill

 

ANECDOTAL EVIDENCE suggested the Press Council had worked well, Minister for Justice Dermot Aherntold the Dáil.

“The majority of reputable media organs are participating well, but the organisation is untried and untested in effect,’’ he said.

The Minister was speaking during the final-stage debate on the Defamation Bill. The Bill, which passed all stages, was introduced by the then minister for justice Michael McDowell in 2006.

Sinn Féin spokesman Aengus Ó Snodaighclaimed the proposed composition of the council was flawed. “It allows for five directors representing the interests of media owners, but only one representing the interests of journalists,’’ he added. He said the council should have statutory powers and media membership should be mandatory.

Mr Ahern said the council would be a non-statutory and self-appointed organisation with seven directors who represented the public interest, five who represented the interests of owners and publishers and one who represented the interests of journalists.

“I think we have got the balance right,’’ said Mr Ahern. The council, he said, was meant to defend the public.

He said, in last week’s Sunday Times, he read an article in which the chairman of the Press Council (Prof Tom Mitchell) criticised two newspapers for not publishing judgments made against them. According to the article, he said, The Irish Timesand the Sunday Tribunewere refusing to publish judgments that partially upheld complaints against stories written by their journalists.

“One of the newspapers made the point it was unhappy that it must publish the entire findings, given the fact that two complaints were only partially upheld,’’ said Mr Ahern.

Fianna Fáil backbencher Thomas Byrnesaid: “I was annoyed and concerned that two newspapers . . . considered to be two of the more respectable newspaper . . . refused to print the findings of the Press Council.’’ He said the Minister’s message, that he would have five years to review the operation of the Act, was important. However, he added, the Oireachtas must also send a message that newspapers must comply with the voluntary code of practice.

  • The Irish Timeshas not refused to publish any judgment of the Press Council – Ed, IT