Friday 23 August 2019

Reform group urges an easing of defamation law

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Ian Begley

Ian Begley

Ireland's defamation laws - known to be among the most restrictive in Europe - should be relaxed to reduce the likelihood of court reporters getting sued, a new report has urged.

The laws, also known as libel and slander, exist to protect people's reputations against untrue statements made against them. However, the current Defamation Act (2009) has regularly posed a major threat to press freedom due to the substantial awards being made by juries.

The Law Reform Commission published a new report yesterday, proposing that a simple oversight or omission would not expose the reporter to the risk of being sued for defamation. It states that the Act should be amended to include a non-exhaustive list of factors about what constitutes a "fair and accurate" report of court proceedings.

The report recommends that the law should continue to apply not only to professional journalists but also to non-­professionals, such as bloggers and those posting court reports on social media.

NUI Galway Prof Donncha O'Connell, who is a member of the Law Reform Commission, told the Irish Independent that the same high standards of fair and accurate reporting would still apply if the law was reformed.

"What we have called for is that the absolute privilege for journalists and non-journalists is maintained," he said.

"But there needs to be a statutory framework for determining what fair and accurate court report is, while taking into account the difficulties that people face while reporting in court."

Irish Independent

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