Thursday 23 February 2017

Review of defamation laws is long overdue



Martin McDonagh. Photo: Courtpix
Martin McDonagh. Photo: Courtpix

They say too many words can cheapen the value of speech, but they never seem to cheapen the value of libel awards. Yesterday, in a timely and insightful address, Attorney General Máire Whelan called for a review of Ireland's defamation laws. She did so on the grounds that journalists reporting in the courts should not be exposed to the risk of litigation or damages claims due to a simple oversight in reporting.

She also highlighted the critical role Article 34.1 of the Constitution has in guaranteeing that justice should be administered in public. The media's role is therefore vital .

She said she believed the time had come to review defamation laws to ensure public interest was fully served. Ms Whelan's observations are both welcome and refreshing. The values in the Constitution should not be compromised or diluted by fears or concerns on the part of a journalist that an honest error could end in costly damages.

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