Defamation laws ‘out of line with Europe’, says newspaper body

Retention of jury system ‘creates delays and also a lack of certainty for publishers’

It is time for Ireland’s defamation laws to be “brought into line with the rest of Europe”, NewsBrands Ireland has said.

In a statement to mark World Press Freedom Day, the organisation formerly known as National Newspapers Ireland (NNI), raised the State's defamation regime, in particular the level of awards made by the courts in defamation cases.

"Defamation awards are much higher here than the rest of Europe. The decision of the Supreme Court to award €1.25 million in a case which it accepted was not the most serious of defamation actions puts Ireland wholly out of kilter with its neighbouring jurisdictions," NewsBrands said.

“The award is approximately 10 times higher than would have been made in the UK.”


It pointed out that: “Ireland is also the only country in Europe where defamation actions are heard before a jury. In Britain, trials are held without a jury ‘unless the court orders otherwise’.”

The retention of the jury system “creates delays and also a lack of certainty for publishers, who have no way to ascertain the extent of their potential liability,” it said.

“As a result, many newspapers simply won’t take the risk of publishing an article. This has a chilling effect on the media’s role as the watchdog of the public and is at odds with the theme of this year’s World Press Freedom Day: ‘Access to Information and Fundamental Freedoms: This is your Right.’”

Patsy McGarry

Patsy McGarry

Patsy McGarry is Religious Affairs Correspondent of The Irish Times