Annual Report of the Press Council of Ireland and Office of the Press Ombudsman is launched in Dublin
A call to all newspapers and periodicals to become members of the Press Council was made by the Chairman of the Press Council of Ireland, Mr. Daithí O’Ceallaigh, in the Annual Report of the Council and the office of the Press Ombudsman in Dublin released today (1 April 2011).
This, he said, would both demonstrate their support for a responsible form of press regulation and would enable their readers to avail of a quick and easy form of redress in the event of a complaint. Almost 200 national newspapers, regional newspapers and magazines are currently members of the Council.
Speaking at the launch, Mr O’Ceallaigh pointed out that all national newspapers in Ireland, many of the most prominent regional newspapers, and a large number of magazines, were already member publications of the Council and as such their readers benefited from an independent regulatory system that was wholly absent from the internet.
“I am sure”, he said, “ that publications that are not as yet members, as well as web-based publications, will in time come to see the value of quality control and best professional practice. When this happens – and at least one web-based news organisation has already been accepted as one of the recent new member publications of the Council - we are ready to play a positive role in the light of our own experience and in support of the highest possible journalistic standards.”
Mr O’Ceallaigh emphasised that the formal recognition of the Council and the Press Ombudsman by the Oireachtas last year had been no mere formality, but a recognition of how the new structures had contributed to the climate of enhanced accountability and public service within which the press industry operates.
Citing the “substantial risk and potentially considerable expense” attached to legal action, as evidenced by recent jury awards, Mr O’Ceallaigh stressed that the mechanisms available through these structures avoided both the risk and the expense of court proceedings for everyone involved. These provided “the speediest, most cost-effective, least hazardous” means of dealing with the issues relating to the coverage of individuals in the print media, he said.
The Press Ombudsman, Professor John Horgan, said that the freedom of the press did not exist for the press itself: it existed and was exercised for and on behalf of the public.
“Some recent examples are relevant”, he said. “Would the phenomenon of child physical and sexual abuse still be under wraps if we did not have a free press? Also those who have read the small print of Judge Moriarty’s report will note that he singles out two instances of information disclosed by the media – one in the print, the second in the broadcast media – which prompted him to extend his investigation in significant ways. This is journalism in the public interest, in the most classic sense of the word.”
As in previous years, the majority of complaints were made under Principle 1 of the Code of Practice, relating to truth and accuracy. This, Professor Horgan suggested, offered “evidence of the high value that members of the public place on such matters”, and he noted that newspapers frequently published corrections of factual accuracies without any need for the involvement of the Ombudsman’s Office. Privacy, fairness and honesty, distinguishing fact and comment, and prejudice were other Principles of the Code most frequently cited in complaints.
A similar number of complaints were received by the Press Ombudsman last year as in 2009, according to the Report. The Press Ombudsman decided on a total of 53 complaints in 2010, upholding 34% of them. In a further 32% of cases, sufficient remedial action was deemed to have been taken by the publication.
Almost one-quarter of cases processed were either resolved informally or successfully conciliated between the parties concerned.
Among the events hosted by the Press Council in 2010 was a seminar on “Children and the Media” in Dublin, and a seminar on “Privacy” in Cork.
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