Call to drop Irish press council plan

The World Association of Newspapers and the World Editors Forum have called on the Irish Government to abandon proposals to create a statutory press council.

Under proposals being considered by the Government, the council would consist of state appointees and have court powers to regulate the Irish press.

“We consider that the establishment of a statutory press council would not be in the best interests of the Irish people and would constitute a setback for the independence and freedom of the press,” WAN and the WEF said in a letter to Taoiseach Bertie Ahern.

Proposed changes to the libel laws call for the creation of a press council that would consist of government appointees, be responsible for drawing up a code of standards, make all decisions on alleged breaches of that code and be able to invoke the powers of the circuit court to enforce decisions.

WAN and the WEF said such a press council would fail to respect the necessary distance between the Government and the press, might have a negative impact on the newspaper market in Ireland, and would set a poor example for emerging democracies, where statutory press councils are often used to maintain state control of the press.

Both groups have urged the Irish Government to establish an independent press council to implement an agreed code of standards drawn up by the media.

By Jon Slattery

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