Friday 30 September 2016

Decision must hasten reform of defamation law

Colm MacGinty Editor, Sunday World

Published 20/10/2015 | 02:30

While communications, media and the Internet expand and develop more rapidly than ever, media law must keep pace with this demand, changes and global reach
While communications, media and the Internet expand and develop more rapidly than ever, media law must keep pace with this demand, changes and global reach
Colm McGinty

The Court of Appeal decision yesterday was welcomed by the 'Sunday World', not only for itself, but for all media organisations and outlets in Ireland.

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The court's finding that a verdict which was handed down by a jury almost seven-and-a -half years ago, was, in essence, perverse, highlights the entirely unsatisfactory system of dealing with claims involving the press and media.

The court recognised that the 'Sunday World', as with any newspaper, had and has a constitutional right to publish the information that Martin McDonagh was a drug dealer.

Over the past eight years, following the decision of the jury which has now been overturned, that meant that this constitutional right had been denied with potentially severe and serious consequences if the award of damages of €900,000 stood.

The fallout from that flawed verdict was not limited simply to this story or this newspaper. It was a threat to the fundamental constitutional rights of press freedom and free speech.

This case demonstrates the total failure of the political system to deal with the complex defamation laws of Ireland which are outdated, overly complex and among the harshest in Europe.

While communications, media and the Internet expand and develop more rapidly than ever, media law must keep pace with this demand, changes and global reach.

The laws must be reformed as a matter of urgency - not least that jury trials be dispensed with as they have been in the rest of Europe and that the delays and costs of dealing with claims involving media be reduced and to avoid excessive threats to the freedom of the press.

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Editor, Sunday World

Irish Independent

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