Press council will be good for citizens - and for newspapers

THE recent controversy over newspaper coverage of the circumstances surrounding the death of Liam Lawlor highlights the ongoing need for an effective mechanism for dealing with inaccurate or unfair reporting in the newspapers.

At the moment, members of the public are left with no effective form of redress in relation to such reporting apart from taking a libel action to the courts.

However, the courts are a prohibitively costly route for most people to take and are not an appropriate means for addressing simple errors or mistakes made by newspapers.

All of us in the media business know that the system of readers’ representatives, established to deal with such matters, is effectively non-existent. As a result, getting corrections made or rights of reply published can often take a lot of time and persistence and sometimes requests for corrections of factual inaccuracies are simply ignored or palmed off.

Because of this experience it’s not surprising that a recent survey of the country’s public relations practitioners showed that 75% of us want to see the immediate introduction of legislation providing for the appointment of a press ombudsman and the establishment of a press council.

In this context, as president of the Public Relations Institute of Ireland (PRII), I want to welcome the Minister for Justice’s statement of October 24 in which he promised that such legislation would be published before Christmas.

We in the PRII look forward to its speedy enactment and implementation and believe that by providing an effective and speedy form of redress its passage will be good for our citizens and will be good for our newspapers.

Pat Montague

President

Public Relations Institute of Ireland

78 Merrion Square

Dublin 2

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