Press council law to afford defence of 'reasonable publication' in court


THE PRESS Council of Ireland will be formally recognised by law as the press council under the terms of an order which will go to the Dáil and Seanad for approval, Minister for Justice Dermot Ahern said yesterday.

Mr Ahern said the application from the Press Council of Ireland, established two years ago, had been examined with reference to the requirements in schedule 2 of the Act and that he was satisfied the application met those requirements. “These requirements involve the objectives of the press council, its composition, its independence, the appointment of independent directors, financial arrangements, the role and operation of the Office of Press Ombudsman and a code of standards,” Mr Ahern said.

He said formal recognition would confer certain benefits on the press council. A significant benefit was that qualified privilege would attach to its reports and decisions as well as those of the press ombudsman.

“Subscription to the press council and adherence to the code of practice for newspapers and periodicals will strengthen the entitlement to avail of the new defence of reasonable publication in any court action,” the Minister said.

“Non-members of the press council will be required to have in place an equivalent fairness regime or to operate an equivalent and publicised code of standards to avail of that defence.”

The move is expected to take place in the coming weeks.

The Press Council of Ireland and the Office of the Press Ombudsman was established by the newspaper industry.

The objective is to provide the public with an independent forum for resolving complaints fairly and free of charge, to maintain the highest standards of Irish journalism and to defend the freedom of the press and the freedom of the public to be informed.