RTE’s war on use of certain words raises questions about censorship

“I intend giving this warning to everyone — you will not on this programme, you or anyone else, use the word ‘homophobia’. You will not use that word about anybody”. So said Joe Duffy on the RTÉ Liveline programme last Friday.

RTE’s war on use of certain words raises questions about censorship

And thus Joe Duffy takes a perfectly serviceable word and bans it entirely from his programme. He did not ask contributors to be careful about it, didn’t ask that they use it in a legally sensitive way, nor that they qualify their meaning of the term.

It’s bad enough if this was just Joe Duffy being over cautious, but I suspect it isn’t as simple as that.

I suspect the powers that be in RTÉ have issued an edict to ban the term ‘homophobia’, having paid out €85,000 for no good reason on foot of feeble legal threats by members of the Iona Institute (a libel action that RTÉ would almost certainly would have won).

The term homophobia has a wide range of meanings. Just as the word “criminal” can be used to describe any convicted person from a petty shoplifter to a mass murderer, homophobia can be meant, and interpreted, in different ways. Just because some people want to confine its use to the most extreme sense does not mean we all have to accept this interpretation.

This summary ban raises bigger questions about censorship policies of our state funded broadcaster.

If they have censorship rules, we are entitled to know precisely what they are.

Ronan Quinlan

Bothar tSlí Leathan

Baile Atha Cliath 15

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