835/2021 - A Complainant and the Irish Independent

By Gabrielle Collins
Wednesday, 4th August 2021
Filed under:

The Press Ombudsman has not upheld a complaint that the Irish Independent breached Principle 1 (Truth and Accuracy), Principle 2 (Distinguishing Fact and Comment) and Principle 9 (Children) of the Code of Practice of the Press Council of Ireland.

On 12 May 2021 the Irish Independent published an article under the heading “How vaccinating children could give freedom back to those hardest hit by pandemic”.

A complainant wrote to the editor of the Irish Independent stating that the article breached Principle 1 (Truth and Accuracy), Principle 2 (Distinguishing Fact and Comment) and Principle 9 (Children) of the Code of Practice. He complained that the language used in the article “falls way behind any journalistic integrity”. He went on to say “Children are proven to be at no risk to Covid-19 and the current vaccines are stated to NOT stop the spread of Covid-19”. The complainant sought “an article published showing remorse by the author in question and the Irish Independent for publishing this article”.

The editor of the Irish Independent replied saying that the article “clearly states that there are competing views among experts about the use of vaccines for children. It also clearly states that use on children would be subject to clinical approval and even then it would be a choice for parents to make”.

The complainant was not satisfied with the response he received from the editor and made a formal complaint to the Office of the Press Ombudsman.

In a submission to the Office of the Press Ombudsman the editor of the Irish Independent stated that his newspaper had taken great care to “present reliable, trustworthy information to the public from the outset of this unprecedented public health emergency”. He said that the complainant had “never particularised” how Principles 1 and 2 of the Code had been breached, and that he was satisfied that neither of these Principles were breached. In regard to Principle 9 of the Code he noted that the article had carefully acknowledged both the “uncertainties” of vaccinating children and the fact that even if regulatory approval was to be forthcoming the final decision must rest with parents.

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

Principle 1

This Principle requires the press to strive at all times for truth and accuracy. The complainant fails to demonstrate any example in the article which breaches requirements in regard to truth and accuracy. The article points out that there are those who are doubtful about vaccinating children as well as those who favour vaccinating children. I can find no breach of Principle 1 of the Code.

Principle 2

This Principle requires the press not to be inappropriately influenced by undisclosed interests. The complainant noted in his complaint that consumer advertising of pharmaceutical products in Ireland is illegal. By implication this suggests that the article was influenced by undisclosed interests. I can find no evidence of this in the article which gave a balanced account of issues around the vaccination of children. The complainant mentions that one product was featured, the Pfizer vaccine. But as this is the leading vaccine used in Ireland against Covid-19 I can find nothing wrong about its inclusion in the article. Principle 2 also requires the press to distinguish between fact and comment. I can find no breach of Principle 2 of the Code.

Principle 9

This Principle requires the press to take particular care in  seeking and presenting information or comment about children. I can find nothing in the article which suggests a lack of care was exercised by the newspaper in providing information on possible vaccination of children. There is no breach of Principle 9.

16 July 2021