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New press watchdog aims to cut costly court battles

An independent watchdog, set up to rule on public complaints about the print media, officially opened for business yesterday.

The Press Council and Press Ombudsman has said it will force publications to print apologies or retractions if a grievance is upheld.

The new complaints bodies -- established as an alternative to costly court battles -- will not have the power to award compensation.

Former politician and journalist Professor John Horgan was appointed as Ireland's first Press Ombudsman last August.

His office, which is supported by the print media and National Union of Journalists, is charged with investigating and adjudicating on complaints from the public.

A new Code of Practice agreed by the press industry will be the framework against which all complaints are considered.

Complaints which are not resolved satisfactorily by the Ombudsman can be referred to the 13-member strong Press Council drawn from the public and the media industry.

The Press Council and Press Ombudsman have already taken out adverts in newspapers to invite the public to contact them if they have complaints.

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