Call for review of Ireland's defamation laws after legal threat from Denis O'Brien

A media lawyer says the latest legal dispute surrounding Denis O'Brien is a reminder that satire websites do not have any special legal protection.

There have been calls to overhaul Ireland's defamation laws after the businessman threatened legal action against the Waterford Whispers website over a news article.

Media lawyer Sarah Kieran says publishers need to be aware that presenting a piece as satire doesn't mean they're immune from legal claims:"We don’t have a legal defensive satire. There is one in Australia and New Zealand, but it doesn’t exist here.

"So everything that a person says they have to be able to prove is true if they have published something that is complained of as defamatory.

"It’s a very difficult position to be in in this country because there’s a fine line with what one person would consider to be defamatory and what another would take on the chin."

An opposition TD says the latest legal threats to the Irish media mean it's time to review Ireland's libel laws.

Roisin Shortall of the Social Democrats says the action is needed after a legal threat by Denis O'Brien against the Waterford Whispers news website.

The satirical website has removed an article which the businessman's lawyers said was malicious and defamatory.

Deputy Shortall says it may be time to review the laws under which the media operates:"I think there is a serious imbalance in our defamation laws at the moment that need to be addressed urgently.

"We can’t have a situation where outlets involved in satire or in reporting of any kind can be threatened.

"There is a very important principle that we must uphold in relation to freedom of speech, but also there are issues which arise out of control of the media."

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