Print media operates in ‘increasingly difficult environment’ says minister

Traditional print media operate in an “increasingly difficult environment” where high prices and legal costs are threatening the economic viability of some national newspapers, Justice Minister Helen McEntee said.

Ms McEntee said she was committed to reviewing and reforming defamation law while adding that online defamation is a “complex and evolving legal area”.

Ms McEntee was speaking on Wednesday as the Dáil heard statements on the 2009 Libel Law Review Report. The report recommended that juries should no longer be involved in libel cases because of their tendency to award huge awards in the past.

The report also recommended making it easier to grant orders requiring online service providers to disclose the identity of an anonymous author of defamatory material.

Cabinet approved the 300-page review earlier this year after it was presented to the government by Ms McEntee. She promised to legislate the main findings of the review by the end of 2022.

“I want to make sure our legislation meets the challenges posed by an increasingly complex media landscape,” she said.

“I firmly believe that the rule of law and democracy per se cannot truly flourish without strong protection of the right to freedom of expression, although of course this must always be carefully balanced, as is the case under our Constitution and the European Convention on Human Rights. rights, safeguarding the individual right to good name and reputation.

EU law

“Consecration of the right of access to justice for people whose rights have been violated is also a fundamental principle that we must respect,” she added.

“Online defamation, in particular, is a complex and evolving legal area that presents particular challenges due to its overlap with EU law and with privacy and data protection law. I am committed to reviewing and reforming defamation law with a view to upholding these rights and achieving this balance in accordance with our Program of Government Commitments.

Ms. Entee also noted that the European Court of Human Rights and the Supreme Court have emphasized that awards in defamation cases must be proportionate to avoid infringing the right to freedom of expression.

“Defamatory Tourism”

Fianna Fáil TD Dara Calleary said it was “very ironic” that a country that had such fearless journalism, including the likes of the late Veronica Guerin, was “under the cloud of current defamation laws”.

“You talk to editors and reporters, they talk about it [defamation laws] like a cloud and like continuous pressure and at a time when the mainstream media, which we rely on for truth and norms and to challenge so many aspects of life, is under the pressure it is under,” said the Mayo TD.

“It’s an anomaly that needs to be fixed. Ireland cannot be left in a situation it described a few weeks ago as something of a hub of libel tourism.

“That’s not the kind of market or reputation we need, especially now that the UK has left the EU.”

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