Media failure to defend Dáil privilege may shatter public trust
29 May 2015
The NUJ has welcomed the announcement that RTÉ is to seek High Court permission to broadcast comments made in the Irish parliament about the financial affairs of media tycoon Denis O'Brien.
Yesterday Irish media organisations were constrained from publishing the comments of Independent TD Catherine Murphy because of an existing injunction taken by Denis O'Brien against RTÉ.
Earlier today, Séamus Dooley, NUJ Irish secretary, urged media organisations to challenge the use of injunctive proceedings to undermine parliament.
The NUJ has expressed grave concern that Irish media organisations felt constrained from publishing a statement made in the Dáil last night by Deputy Catherine Murphy.
Séamus Dooley warned that faith in the media would be shattered if proprietors and editors did not challenge threats to parliamentary democracy and freedom of expression. He said:
"It is gravely concerning that media organisations felt constrained from publishing the comments, made under Dáil privilege, by Deputy Catherine Murphy concerning financial matters relating to Denis O’Brien and his alleged relationship with Irish Bank Resolution Corporation (IBRC).
"The fact that the national public service broadcaster was constrained from broadcasting material freely available on the website of the Houses of the Oireachtas, and that other print and broadcasting organisations felt similarly constrained, raises fundamental questions about our parliamentary democracy and the right of the media to report freely on parliamentary proceedings.
"A courageous stand in defence of the right to report parliamentary proceedings would have served the public interest. Faith in the media’s ability to do its job will be shattered if this challenge is not faced head on. This is a defining moment for the media in Ireland.
"In normal circumstances one would expect a united media campaign to defend freedom of expression. I am calling on all media organisations and their representative organisations to seek urgent High Court clarification of the implications of the current injunction secured by Denis O’Brien against RTÉ on the freedom of print, broadcasting and online media to report on parliament.
"The fact that Denis O’Brien exercises a controlling interest in so many newspapers and radio stations in Ireland limits the possibility of a united front in defence of freedom of expression. That in itself underlines the need for urgent action to limit concentration of media ownership in Ireland."
Catherine Murphy’s comments are available on the Oireachtas website.