840/2021 - A Man and The Journal

By Gabrielle Collins
Friday, 12th November 2021
Filed under:

On 1 October 2021, the Press Ombudsman did not uphold a complaint against The Journal that Principle 1 (Truth and Accuracy) of the Code of Practice of the Press Council of Ireland had been breached.

On 5 May 2021 The Journal published an opinion column on issues  people with disabilities face in gaining employment.

A man emailed the editor of The Journal criticising the article for not mentioning that “near €50m of HSE monies were given to 3 disability institutions in 2018 and 2019  despite the fact that those on disability allowance are not even on the live register”. He followed this up with another email in which he said “The full facts are not being stated in the press as to why there is unacceptably high unemployment amongst disabled people, yet a fortune of HSE monies are going to institutions and to “Disability Inclusion” Ministers. Something is not right.” He asked that The Journal publish an article by him on the issues facing people with disabilities.

The Journal replied that the article was an opinion piece and was not meant to be a comprehensive take on all aspects of the topic, and that the complex issues raised take time and resources and cannot be aired in one piece.

The man made a complaint to the Office of the Press Ombudsman claiming that Principle 1 (Truth and Accuracy) of the Code of Practice of the Press Council of Ireland had been breached. He stated that the article included a “misleading statement or distorted report”. In his view the agencies dealing with people with disabilities were “not fit for purpose”.  He said that The Journal by not allowing him to contribute an article was a breach of his constitutional rights “to state the truths not being told”.

In a submission to the Press Ombudsman in response to the complaint The Journal said that it had engaged in “thoughtful and considered responses” with the man on his concerns about the article. The Journal noted that the man did not outline any inaccuracy in the article, and that the article was clearly marked ‘Opinion’, both in its headline and on its placing on the publication’s website. The Journal also noted that there was no “constitutional right” for anyone to have an article published in the Journal.

The man rejected the claims made by the Journal that it had engaged in meaningful dialogue with him and asked that his complaint be forwarded to the Press Ombudsman.

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

Decision

I am not upholding this complaint. The man submitted many observations about the services available to people with disabilities in Ireland. However these observations were not relevant to the claims that Principle 1 had been breached by the publication of the article the subject of the complaint. The man failed to identify any inaccuracy in the article. Rather he amplified his views that the resources used to provide services for people with disabilities were often misdirected.  No evidence was presented of any breach of the Code. In regard to the man’s claim that he had an entitlement to be allowed publish a “right-of-reply” article it is entirely a matter at an editor’s discretion as to what material he/she decides to publish, either as a right-of-reply or otherwise.

The decsion of the Press Council can be viewed here