Wednesday 24 October 2018

Independent and fearless journalism protects our democracy

(Stock photo)
(Stock photo)

National and local newspaper publishers today launch a campaign highlighting the essential role of journalism in safeguarding democracy, exposing wrongdoing and holding the powerful to account.

Led by NewsBrands Ireland and Local Ireland, the representative bodies for the local and national newspapers, the campaign is designed to highlight the vital role the press plays in a vibrant democracy and calls on the Government to support a number of measures being sought by the industry to ensure its future.

The #JournalismMatters campaign calls on the Government to use Budget 2019 to deliver on a five-point-plan for the industry:

Reduce VAT on newspapers and digital products to 5pc in Budget 2019. It's currently one of the highest rates in Europe.

Reform Ireland's draconian defamation laws to ensure that the stories that need to be told, are told.

Appoint a Minister for Media — a single member of the Cabinet should have oversight for all aspects of our complex media landscape.

Establish a News Publishers Media Fund — to drive innovation and investment.

Invest in a training support scheme for all journalists.

At the heart of the campaign is the simple message that news reporting aids in the detection of deeper issues, and at its best serves to prevent problems from developing or shines a new light on old issues. Without an independent press to raise questions, scandals slide by unchecked.

The week long initiative also includes a ''Journalism Matters'' video series created by NewsBrands Ireland which features 15 examples of outstanding public interest journalism which have affected real change: from recent investigative journalism which uncovered wrongdoing or illegal activity, to campaigning journalism which achieved tangible results, to the reporting of issues or stories which change the public discourse and narrative.

The videos will be rolled out by NewsBrands Ireland and its members on their various digital channels throughout this week.

In addition, an advertising campaign inviting readers to imagine a world without news will run in every national and local newspaper from today.

Chairman of NewsBrands Ireland, Vincent Crowley said: "The future of Irish journalism is at a crossroads and government inaction now is simply not an option. Without the supports and investment, and clarity on VAT rates, the sector will not be able to thrive and invest, but will falter and publications will be forced to close or at best scale back on the good, independent journalism that has been a bedrock of Irish democracy.

"The forthcoming budget gives this Government the opportunity to send a strong message that it appreciates a vibrant news media industry and is seeking ways to protect it for future generations.”

President of Local Ireland, Frank Mulrennan said: "Aside from the loss to democratic life in our society, the losses will be big in many communities — jobs will go, not just in the newspaper titles, but many of the supporting ones in newsagents and other indirect jobs.

"Without strong and healthy local newspapers, politicians will be challenged in maintaining engagement with the electorate because local newspapers reach at least 1.5 million people each week.

"It is vitally important independent journalism is supported. The best way the government could show their support for is to implement the measures being sought by the newspaper industry.”

Information on the campaign is available at newsbrandsireland.ie and localireland.ie.

Independent and fearless journalism protects our democracy

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