The highly concentrated nature of media ownership remains the single largest threat to press freedom in Ireland. Independent News and Media (INM) controls much of the daily and Sunday newspaper market, while broadcasting is dominated by the semi-state company RTE. The 1937 constitution guarantees media freedom, but defamation suits are common. The extraordinarily high damages awarded by Irish courts in defamation cases have prompted calls for a review of the 2009 Defamation Act – long overdue, as a review was intended within five years of the law’s passage. In 2017, the European Court of Human Rights found that a €1.25 million award in a defamation case in Ireland was a breach of the right to freedom of expression. The possibility of exorbitant damages, combined with the high costs of defending defamation suits, has resulted in a climate of self-censorship, in which prominent individuals known to be litigious become largely untouchable by the Irish media. The General Scheme of the Communications (Retention of Data) Bill, published in 2017 – which has not yet been tabled as a bill – was criticised for failing to provide specific protections for journalists. 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. The vote by referendum in October 2018 to decriminalise blasphemy was a welcome move for press freedom.
16 in 2018
14.59 in 2018