Mr Brian O'Donnell and Family and the Irish Independent

By admin
Wednesday, 6th September 2017
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The Press Ombudsman has not upheld a complaint by Mr Brian O’Donnell and his family that the Irish Independent breached Principle l0 (Publication of Decisions) of the Code of Practice of the Press Council of Ireland.  The decision was affirmed by the Press Council on appeal.

On 8 June 2017 the Press Ombudsman upheld a complaint made by Mr Brian O’Donnell and his family that the Irish Independent breached Principle 5 (Privacy) of the Code of Practice of the Press Council of Ireland.  The decision was affirmed by the Press Council on appeal.

The Press Ombudsman’s decision was published by the Irish Independent, both in print and online, on 22 July.  Mr Brian O’Donnell and his family complained that the manner in which the decision was published breached Principle 10 (Publication of the Decision of the Press Ombudsman/Press Council) of the Press Council’s Code of Practice.  

The O’Donnell family complained that publication of the decision in the print edition of the newspaper did not comply with Principle 10 of the Code. They argued that as the original article that led to their complaint was “a double page spread and featured on the front page masthead” the upheld decision was not displayed with due prominence.  The family complained that the decision ought to have been published on the top of the page, not the bottom. They also claimed that the decision was published on page four and carried over onto page five and that this was a breach of the Publication Guidelines of the Press Ombudsman and Press Council.

The O’Donnell family also complained that the online publication of the decision did not comply with Principle 10 of the Code because it was not displayed on the front page of the Independent.ie website and was displayed as one of the last news stories on the Independent.ie app.   They said this did not give the decision the “due prominence” it required.

The Irish Independent, in its response to the complaint, stated that the manner of publication of the decision was “in accordance with the prescribed Publication Guidelines”.

As the complaint could not be resolved through conciliation it was forwarded to the Press Ombudsman for a decision.

Principle 10 of the Code requires that the press shall publish decisions in relation to complaints with “due prominence”.  To assist in this process the Press Ombudsman and Press Council provide editors with a set of guidelines for the publication of decisions. 

For decisions about articles published in print editions of newspapers the Guidelines state that decisions shall be published on the same page as the original article, or further forward.  An exception to this requirement is that if the article appeared on the front page the upheld decision shall be published on one of the first four editorial pages.   The decision was published in the print edition as a large unified boxed article across the entire lower parts of pages four and five of the newspaper.   In my view, the decision was published in a manner that comfortably met the requirement of “due prominence” in Principle 10 of the Code.

The ordering and placement of articles in active online publications is much more fluid than in print publications. To address this the Publication Guidelines provide a number of options for the publication of decisions online. One of these options is that a decision shall be published either in full or by use of a headlined link to the decision on the website’ homepage for 24 hours and thereafter remain available on the website for a further week.  This requirement was met by Independent.ie and therefore publication of the decision online did not breach Principle l0 of the Code.

22  August 2017