British paper backing abortion 'isn't helpful' - minister says media must be 'impartial' on Eighth Amendment
Minister says media must be 'impartial' on Eighth Amendment
A cabinet minister said she would be concerned if a British newspaper owned by media mogul Rupert Murdoch was seeking to influence the outcome of the forthcoming abortion referendum.
Social Protection Minister Regina Doherty, who backs unrestricted abortion up to 12 weeks, was responding to questions about 'The Times' Ireland edition and its campaign against Irish abortion laws.
Ms Doherty said it "isn't helpful" when newspapers and international media groups actively campaign for one side of a debate.
"I would have a concern that any media outlet would report in an impartial way," the minister said.
"With respect to your profession, there is a responsibility to provide a balanced approach and it isn't helpful that, I think, anybody needs to be told what to do from a media outlet or news organisation. I wouldn't welcome it but sometimes you can't control it," she said.
The editor of the recently established newspaper, Richard Oakley, has stated he intends for his publication to openly favour one side of the debate in the abortion referendum.
However, Mr Oakley claimed his newspaper's stance on abortion does not affect its reporting on one of the most divisive issues of modern Irish political debate. He also claimed any stories his newspaper publishes will be "factually correct from start to finish".
The stance of the British newspaper directly clashes with Ms Doherty's insistence that newspapers should take an impartial approach to the referendum.
The newspaper group has denied it is seeking to influence the outcome of the referendum on Eighth Amendment of the Constitution by paying for pro-abortion content on Facebook.
He refused to comment when asked by the Irish Independent if his newspaper or its sister newspaper, the Irish edition of 'The Sunday Times', had ever used Facebook to promote pro-life news stories.
A recent pro-choice story in 'The Sunday Times' headlined: "HSE used Eighth to try and force me to have a caesarean" has been appearing as a sponsored post from the paper in Facebook users' feeds.
The British newspaper group says the post was targeted at users on both sides of the abortion debate.
Independent TD Mattie McGrath criticised the British newspaper group for paying for Facebook sponsored content to promote stories supporting one side of the referendum campaign. Mr McGrath said the media should give "some modicum of fairness to both sides" of the debate.
'The Times' Ireland edition is part of Mr Murdoch's News Corp group which also includes 'The Sun' and 'The Sunday Times'. Both newspapers asked the British public to vote in favour of leaving the European Union ahead of the controversial Brexit referendum two years ago. 'The Times' of London backed staying in the EU.
In the US, Mr Murdoch owns 'The New York Post' and Fox News - both media organisations supported the election of controversial businessman Donald Trump in his bid to become US president.
Fox News recently refused to accept revenue from a businessman seeking to broadcast an advertisement criticising President Trump.