Press Council and Office of the Press Ombudsman welcome Taoiseach’s support.
The Press Ombudsman has made the following statement welcoming the Taoiseach's support for the use of her office by those seeking redress if they believe they have been wronged as a result of press coverage.
“The Press Council of Ireland and the Office of the Press Ombudsman deplore the practice of powerful public figures suing individual journalists in response to public interest news reporting. We welcome the Taoiseach's and the NUJ's support for journalists who are subject to this intimidating practice, and in this regard we are active participants in EU-wide efforts to prevent the use of Strategic Lawsuits Against Public Participation.
My role as Press Ombudsman is to consider complaints in terms of the Press Council's Code of Practice, a document which strongly supports the rights of the individual to defend their good name. As the Taoiseach has said, "people are entitled to sue the media, but they don't have to”. The Press Council of Ireland and the Office of the Press Ombudsman are recognised under the 2009 Defamation Act as an alternative mechanism to resolve such disputes, and most of the print and online media outlets in this country have committed to upholding our Code. We are pleased that in response to our advice, the new Defamation Bill will include an instruction to solicitors to inform clients considering litigation to consider using our services instead.
The services my office provide are free and open to everyone and we respond swiftly to all complaints we receive.
The freedom of the press is at the heart of our democracy. We recognise that this carries responsibilities and that is why the Press Council and the Office of the Press Ombudsman were established. A defamation case, even if not upheld, will almost certainly be financially ruinous for an individual reporter, and will cause severe financial problems for a newspaper, potentially impacting on its ability to invest in quality journalism. The press is already struggling against a range of difficult circumstances. Politicians, whatever their party background, who choose to sue rather than making a complaint through the Office of the Press Ombudsman, need to ask themselves if this is in the public interest.”
The Chair of the Press Council, Rory Montgomery, also welcomed the Taoiseach's remarks. He said:
"We welcome Mr Varadkar's statement of support for the work of the Press Council. While we respect the right of all individuals to defend their good name, and to use the law if they consider it necessary, we urge public figures and in particular public representatives to follow his advice. We offer an alternative form of redress based on upholding the highest journalistic standards. In relation to the suing of individual journalists, the Press Council shares the Taoiseach's stated opposition to the use of Strategic Lawsuits Against Public Participation."
9 November 2023
For press enquires please contact the Press Ombudsman, Susan McKay
Telephone: 089 6046753