Ireland's media threatened by 'unreasonable and frequent' actions by small number of wealthy individuals - Press Council
The media's confidence in publishing "robust commentary" is being threatened by "unreasonable and frequent threats of defamation actions", according to the Press Council of Ireland.
While acknowledging the balance between the right to publish and maintaining an individual's right to reputation, the council said it was concerned that these actions may arise from a very small number of wealthy individuals "whose access to finance may be disproportionately greater than that of the press".
The council has also expressed concern that the current defamation process is slow and often results in "excessive awards" in comparison with other countries.
In a submission to the Department of Justice, which is currently carrying out a review of the 2009 Defamation Act, the council noted that the print media in Ireland is facing these and other "unprecedented difficulties".
The detailed submission - which follows the invitation for views by the Minister for Justice Frances Fitzgerald - addresses the level of awards in particular.
As suggested by the council, cases should be heard in the Circuit Court where there would be a limit on costs and potential awards and in cases where larger amounts are being sought, the hearings might be heard in the Commercial Court.
The council has also called for the Defamation Act to be strengthened so that the public can the Press Council process as an alternative to defamation proceedings.