24 May 2018
Launch of the 2017 Annual Report of the Press Council of Ireland and Office of the Press Ombudsman
At the Maldron Hotel, Pearse Street, Dublin 2
Thursday 24 May at 11.30am (Embargo 12noon)
The Press Council of Ireland and the Office of the Press Ombudsman today launched their Annual Report for 2017. The Report highlighted that the Office of the Press Ombudsman received 330 complaints in 2017, up from 261 in the previous year. The complaints related to articles published in national and local newspapers, magazines and online-only news publications. The Press Ombudsman, Peter Feeney, said
“The Press Council and the Office of the Press Ombudsman have been in operation now for 10 years. We believe we have an important role to play in maintaining a free and responsible press, and in promoting quality journalism, a vital element in any society. The press not only informs the public but is fundamental in holding public and private entities to account. We contribute to accountability of the press in Ireland by providing members of the public with an independent complaints-handling process”.
Seán Donlon, the Chairperson of the Press Council, speaking at the launch said there were two specific threats to press freedom in Ireland today. The first of these is the current Defamation Act which he said has done nothing to reduce disproportionate defamation awards which are having “a chilling effect on press freedom”. The much anticipated review of the Defamation Act, he said, must address the levels of awards or some publishers will simply go under.
The second threat Mr Donlon identified was the growing influence of social media in Irish public life. He said
“It is essential that governments and international organisations such as the EU now address the disproportionate and unaccountable power of social media. There has to be an acceptance that responsibility goes with power. If the social media organisations do not themselves take action to ensure that they do not undermine democratic systems then governments will have to bring in supervisory and regulatory measures comparable to that which newspapers, magazines, advertising and broadcasters already experience”.