Communications Minister Pat Rabbitte has expressed confidence that Irish newspapers have not engaged in phone hacking or the corruption of police and government officials, unlike some of their British counterparts.
“I don’t believe the more odious practices exposed by the Leveson inquiry are present in Ireland,” he said.
Speaking at the launch of the annual report of the Press Council of Ireland and the Press Ombudsman, Mr Rabbitte said it was no surprise that the British authorities were looking at the Irish system for handling complaints against the print media.
He said the Press Council had worked better than generally anticipated at the time of its establishment in 2007.
The minister’s comments about the conduct of Irish newspapers were echoed by the chairman of the Press Council, Dáithí Ó Ceallaigh, who said there was no evidence of systemic phone hacking in Ireland.
While Mr Ó Ceallaigh did not rule out the possibility that some abuses had occurred here, he said it was fair to assume abuses on the scale witnessed in Britain had not taken place in the Republic.
He said the findings and recommendations of the Leveson inquiry would be of great significance for the print media industry and would be studied closely by the Press Council.
The Press Council chairman said he believed the arrangements for the handling of press complaints in Ireland had proven “robust”.
He claimed there was evidence to suggest newspapers were more inclined to accept mistakes had been made and to offer appropriate forms of redress than they had been in the past.
Mr Ó Ceallaigh said the fact that the code of practice for newspapers and magazines was interpreted and applied by an independent Press Ombudsman and Press Council was a guarantee to the public that appropriate standards of transparency and accountability exist.
The Press Ombudsman, John Horgan, said the volume of complaints had remained steady over the past number of years. A total of 343 complaints were recorded last year. However, only 77 have resulted in a formal process.
Almost one third of complaints were outside the remit of the Press Ombudsman, while 144 cases were not pursued beyond a preliminary inquiry.
Mr Horgan expressed satisfaction that many complaints were resolved by direct contact between the complainant and a newspaper.
The Press Ombudsman issued decisions on 42 cases in 2011. Of these, 22 rulings were appealed to the Press Council — 15 by the original complainant and seven by newspapers. However, none of the appeals were successful in overturning the original decision of the Press Ombudsman.
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