Press freedom threatened by long-standing delays to defamation reform and highly concentrated media ownership
Throughout 2020 long-standing promises for reform of the 2009 Defamation Act by the Department of Justice were left unfulfilled, sustaining a prohibitive atmosphere for journalists reporting stories involving high-profile public figures and significant private interests. Called-for reforms include limitations to the cripplingly high damages often placed on defendants, and abolition of jury-led defamation cases at the High Court. The continued lack of this much-needed defamation reform and disproportionately high defamation damages continued to present significant threats to press freedom in Ireland. The possibility of exorbitant damages, combined with the high costs of defending defamation suits, has resulted in a prolonged climate of self-censorship, in which prominent individuals known to be litigious have become largely untouchable by the Irish media. The highly concentrated nature of media ownership also presented concerns for the plurality and independence of media, and fed into a crisis of sustainability for local media. Independent News and Media (INM) controlled much of the daily and Sunday newspaper market, while broadcasting continued to be dominated by the semi-state company RTE - itself facing mounting financial burdens that threaten its continued stability. Many regional titles found themselves on the brink of financial collapse in 2020. The Future of Media Commission, established by the Dáil Éireann (Assembly of Ireland) in October 2020, was a welcome step towards addressing the considerable challenges faced in encouraging a diverse and active press freedom environment in Ireland. However, concerns remain that the Commission lacks the necessary power and resources to enact meaningful reform.
13 in 2020
12.60 in 2020