Sunday 22 September 2019

'The media is duty bound to be fair': TD's message to British newspaper

Call for fairness in reporting: Pro-life TD Mattie McGrath
Call for fairness in reporting: Pro-life TD Mattie McGrath
Thousands of people took part in the annual ‘Rally for Life’ march last July where they were met by pro-choice groups campaigning to repeal the Eighth Amendment. Photo: Fergal Phillips
Cormac McQuinn

Cormac McQuinn

A British newspaper has refused to say if it has used Facebook ads to promote stories centred on both sides of the abortion debate.

The social media platform was used to promote a story in 'The Sunday Times' on an argument for repealing the Eighth Amendment.

This led opponents of abortion to question if it was an attempt to influence the upcoming referendum.

The editor of its sister newspaper 'The Times Ireland Edition', Richard Oakley, claimed this was not the intention. But last night Mr Oakley refused to comment on whether or not his news organisation had also used Facebook to promote stories that outline pro-life arguments in the abortion debate.

Pro-life TD Mattie McGrath criticised the use of a Facebook sponsored post to promote the recent story in 'The Sunday Times', which was headlined: "HSE used Eighth to try and force me to have a caesarean".

He said "it's not their job" to use ads on the website to promote stories on abortion.

"The job of the media is to bring the news," Mr McGrath said. "It's supposed to assess the two sides in the argument and give some modicum of fairness to both sides - which we haven't got from the committee... or from the media so far.

"The media is duty bound to be fair and impartial where issues like this take place."

Mr McGrath also said he is concerned the story on abortion was promoted on Facebook by a British-owned publication because of the widespread availability of abortion in England.

The Independent TD was a member of the Oireachtas committee that examined the Eighth Amendment. But he rejected its recommendation that the Eighth Amendment be repealed. He was among three members that produced a minority report opposing abortion in all circumstances.

Mr Oakley also declined to comment on Mr McGrath's remarks.

Anti-abortion campaigners have accused 'The Times Ireland Edition' of being biased in favour of repealing the Eighth Amendment.

Mr Oakley has previously claimed the newspaper's editorial stance in favour of abortion does not affect its reporting of news stories - saying its reports on the issue are "factually correct from start to finish".

Questions were raised about the use of Facebook to promote 'The Sunday Times' story by Save the Eighth campaigner John McGuirk. He used a tool on the website that explains why users are seeing certain ads. The Facebook explanation was that 'The Times' and 'The Sunday Times' wanted to reach people interested in anti-abortion movements.

Mr Oakley took to Twitter claiming suggestions the post was a bid to influence the abortion referendum were not true.

He claimed the link to the story was promoted to people who hold both "pro and anti views on abortion women's rights".

Mr McGuirk accepted this explanation.

Mr Oakley has also claimed his publication's stories on abortion are not biased.

He says the newspaper has reported there are a large number of people in Ireland who oppose abortion.

Irish Independent

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