Mr Martin Molloy and The Irish Times
The Press Ombudsman has decided that The Irish Times offered to take sufficient action to resolve a complaint by Mr Martin Molloy.
On 16 August 2015 The Irish Times posted a blog by one of its correspondents. The subject matter of the blog was an issue that had arisen amongst those who develop, critique and promote digital games. The author gave his views about a loosely formed group operating under the hashtag Gamergate. Thirty-five comments were posted under the blog, many of these were critical of the author’s views and disagreed with his characterisation of those involved in #Gamergate.
Mr Martin Molloy, the complainant, emailed the editor of The Irish Times on 21 August complaining of inaccuracies in the blog. He described the blog as “an egregiously erroneous article” and “destructive rumour based reporting”. He stated that the blog “treated hearsay from persons claiming protestors including (himself) were the cause of harassment as fact despite a lack of evidence to corroborate his claims”
The Irish Times responded by offering Mr Molloy an opportunity to contribute a version of his complaint as a comment to the blog. This was not acceptable to Mr Molloy.
On 24 August Mr Molloy submitted a complaint to the Press Ombudsman’s Office, claiming that the blog breached Principle 1 (Truth and Accuracy) and Principle 2 (Distinguishing Fact and Comment) of the Code of Practice of the Press Council of Ireland. He claimed that Principle 1 had been breached as the blog misrepresented #Gamergate and by extension the persons who engage in consumer advocacy/protect, including himself, to the public. He claimed that Principle 2 had been breached as claims of harassment by members of #Gamergate had been published as fact despite a lack of evidence. He stated that the offer of The Irish Times to post a comment by him was “not a satisfactory solution and, in any case, is not possible as The Irish Times decided to refuse replies to the article” before the offer was made to him.
As the complaint could not be conciliated it was forwarded to the Press Ombudsman for a decision. The editor of The Irish Times stated that the characterisations found in the blog were legitimate and by no means “far-fetched expressions” of the author of the blog. He said that to run a “correction” would be to undermine the author’s freedom of speech. He stated that the newspaper had offered to carry a response to the piece with the blog, and that it could do so by re-opening the blog to comment. He concluded that this offer was still open to Mr Molloy.
Mr Molloy responded to this offer by saying that “it would not constitute a satisfactory solution to the damaging claims made by (the author of the blog)”. He said that the publication of his comments would not be an acknowledgement that the “article was not based on fact”. In his view a disclaimer was necessary at the top of the article that the assertions in the article were not factual.
It is the decision of the Press Ombudsman that sufficient action was offered by The Irish Times to resolve the complaint when it offered Mr Molloy an opportunity to contribute to the debate generated by the blog. Quintessentially a blog is an opinion piece and those who read blogs understand this and have an expectation that if they wish to comment or disagree with views found in the blog they can do so through the facility to post comments which will be published with the blog. The Irish Times offered this to Mr Molloy but he wanted much more than this. It is quite clear that many of those who did post comments held essentially the same views as Mr Molloy, i.e. that they disagreed with the views expressed in the blog. I cannot see any reason why Mr Molloy should be treated any differently than others who also disagreed with the views expressed by the author of the blog.
15 October 2015
The complainant appealed the decision of the Press Ombudsman to the Press Council of Ireland
Click here to read the Decision of the Press Council of Ireland