NUJ welcomes proposals to overhaul defamation laws in Ireland

  • 21 Feb 2022

Cabinet approval could lead to landmark changes that support media freedom.

The National Union of Journalists has welcomed reports of a potential overhaul of Ireland's defamation laws. Government approval to develop a Bill in Ireland could mean changes in how defamation cases are brought, with increased scrutiny and reforms that support media freedom.  

Helen McEntee, minister for Justice, is expected to seek Cabinet approval this month over laws that would contribute to a much needed shake up, preventing the wealthy and powerful from targeting journalists and hiding behind legislation. The NUJ contributed to the review of current legislation and has been calling for an end to the shameful use of Strategic Lawsuit Against Public Participation (SLAPP) wielded in recent years by individuals attempting to intimidate and silence journalists left facing staggering legal bills. 

Michelle Stanistreet, NUJ general secretary said:  

"Action to tackle this scourge would be very welcome news. The rise of so-called ‘lawfare’, including SLAPPs, to stymie investigative journalism and thwart reporting is of enormous concern to the NUJ and all those who care about media freedom.

"The NUJ is also clear that public confidence in the media must be maintained. Libel actions are expensive, and the Press Council of Ireland continues to offer redress to readers. In welcoming these proposed reforms, we would also emphasise the importance of maintaining the Press Council of Ireland on a sound, financial footing."

Other reforms reported include closer assessment of defamation cases to ensure Ireland is the most appropriate place for action, case dismissals by courts if they are not progressed within set timescales, and changes in compensation procedure.   

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