Recognising the Press Council

Press Council and Ombudsman logoSection 44 (also here) of the Defamation Act, 2009 (also here) provides that the Minister for Justice may by recognise a body as the “Press Council” , and Schedule 2 (also here) to the Act sets out the minimum requirements such a body must meet to be so recognised. The Irish media established a Press Council of Ireland and the Office of the Press Ombudsman with effect from 1 January 2009, and the Minister announced yesterday that this would be recognised as the Press Council for the purposes of the Act (here’s the press release, with added links):

Ahern to seek Oireachtas approval for formal recognition of the Press Council

The Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform, Mr. Dermot Ahern, T.D., announced today that he is asking the Dáil and Séanad to approve an Order by him declaring the formal recognition of the Press Council of Ireland as the “Press Council”.

Minister Ahern said that the application from the Press Council of Ireland under section 44 of the Defamation Act 2009 has been examined with reference to the requirements in Schedule 2 of the Act and that he was satisfied that the application met those requirements.

These requirements involve the objectives of the Press Council, its composition, its independence, the appointment of independent directors, financial arrangements, the role and operation of the Office of Press Ombudsman and a code of standards.

Formal recognition will confer certain benefits on the Press Council. A significant benefit is that qualified privilege will attach to its reports and decisions as well as those of the Press Ombudsman. Subscription to the Press Council and adherence to the Code of Practice for Newspapers and Periodicals will strengthen the entitlement to avail of the new defence of reasonable publication in any court action [see section 26(2)(f) of the Act (also here)]. Non-members of the Press Council will be required to have in place an equivalent fairness regime or to operate an equivalent and publicised code of standards to avail of that defence.

There is more coverage here and here from the Irish Times. At a time when other countries are looking with favour on the Irish model, it heartening to see the final pieces of the Defamation Act jigsaw slotting into place.