The overall climate for press freedom in Ireland is positive, with journalists able to work freely and without interference. Concerns remain, however, about the future funding of the media, including public service broadcaster RTÉ.
Media ownership in Ireland has historically been highly concentrated, to the detriment of press freedom, but recent years have seen a welcome transition to greater pluralism. Businessman Denis O’Brien’s sale of shares in Independent News & Media (INM) in 2019 and Communicorp in 2021 has opened up the media landscape to greater competition and diversity.
The Future of Media Commission, established by the Dáil Éireann (the Irish Assembly) in October 2020, published its long-awaited report in 2022. The government accepted 49 of the commission’s 50 recommendations, which include a new Media Fund and support for local democracy reporting. However, a key question around funding for public service broadcaster RTÉ remains unresolved.
A long-overdue review of Ireland’s Defamation Act 2009 was finally published in 2022. The review, which recommended providing clearer protection for public interest journalism and introducing anti-SLAPP (Strategic Lawsuit Against Public Participation) mechanisms, was largely welcomed though there were some concerns around the abolition of juries in defamation cases.
Irish broadcasters and media outlets continued to face considerable financial difficulty in 2022. Regional titles continue to struggle, and the government has yet to take decisive action over much needed reforms to funding mechanisms for RTÉ and other news outlets.
Journalists in Ireland are largely free to work without significant cultural constraints. The abolition of blasphemy by referendum in 2018, which took effect in 2020, was a welcome step forward, decriminalising the publication of “blasphemous, seditious, or indecent matter ” and abolishing the offence of defamation of any religion.
On occasion, Irish journalists have reported that their safety has been threatened by criminal groups, but no significant cases were reported in 2022. There are some concerns about attacks on journalists on social media. Interviewing police sources has been virtually impossible since the Garda Siochana Act of 2005, which bans police officers from talking to journalists without prior authorisation. Officers contravening the ban risk dismissal, a fine, or up to seven years in prison.