1509/2023 - A Man and the Irish Independent
The Press Ombudsman has decided not to uphold a complaint that the Irish Independent breached Principle 1 (Truth and Accuracy) of the Press Council’s Code of Practice in an article it published in January 2021. The complainant has requested that his name should not be used in this decision.
The article is a news story about a report on the impact of Covid-19 on children that was carried out by experts from the National Immunisation Advisory Committee (NIAC) and delivered to the State’s Chief Medical Officer. The complainant stated that the article breached Principle 1 because it was “spreading misinformation”. He called on the Irish Independent to “publicly highlight that vaccination does not stop covid virus transmission.”
The complainant said the newspaper had “insinuated” that unvaccinated children could pose a risk to vulnerable household members and described this as “an outrageous attack against children.” He said that the newspaper had engaged in misleading parents and that this “must surely border on criminality”, and called on the newspaper to retract the article and apologise.
The Irish Independent denied that it breached the Code of Practice. It said the article was justified and accurate. It said it was based on published advice from NIAC, the independent body designated by the Government to assess vaccines and make recommendations for their use based on examining safety, efficacy and benefits. The newspaper noted that many of those involved in NIAC have medical expertise.
To demonstrate the accuracy of the article, the newspaper provided a link to key pages in the report. These included NIAC’s view that a secondary benefit of vaccination of children may be reducing the likelihood of transmission by those vaccinated should they become infected, with an indirect benefit of protecting other vulnerable family members. Also included was its comment that it was up to parents and guardians to weigh up a range of factors “including the best interests of the health and wellbeing of their child in the context of their family.”
The Press Ombudsman considers that the article is a fair and accurate news report. It is based on a close reading of a report from NIAC, a body which includes people who are appropriately qualified to carry out the assessment in question and to offer expert guidance to the Chief Medical Officer and the Department of Health. The article summarises central arguments and uses quotations which capture key issues referred to in NIAC’s analysis. There has been no breach of Principle 1 of the Code.
19 May 2023
The decision was appealed to the Press Council of Ireland.