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Sinn Féin seeks to outlaw the 'blacklisting' of journalists by media organisations

The proposal follows on from the ban of Irish Times staff appearing on Newstalk in 2017.

Sinn Féín's David Cullinane accused the government of 'kicking the can down the road'.
Sinn Féín's David Cullinane accused the government of 'kicking the can down the road'.
Image: Oireachtas.ie

SINN FÉIN WANTS to amend the Broadcasting Act to make it a breach of license for any communications media organisation to ban journalists.

The proposal of the new Bill follows on from the ban of Irish Times staff appearing on Newstalk and several other radio stations in 2017. 

The newspaper’s journalists were banned from appearing on Communicorp radio stations in 2017 after Irish Times columnist Fintan O’Toole said that Newstalk had become “the most flagrantly sexist public organisation in Ireland”.

The ban was eventually lifted this year, just days after the acquisition of the stations’ parent group was completed. 

UK-based Bauer Media Audio, which is part of German media conglomerate Bauer, now owns the Communicorp group, which includes Newstalk, Today FM, Spin 1038, Spin Southwest and 98FM.

The sale of the stations marked the end of Denis O’Brien’s involvement in Irish media ownership.

Speaking in the Dáil this evening when moving his Bill, Sinn Féin’s David Cullinane said the amendment would prohibit a member of the NUJ being banned from communications media companies for reasons of occupation, employer, or employment status.

He said the Broadcasting Amendment Bill seeks to protect journalists from being blacklisted.

“The blacklisting of journalists by Communicorp media in the past was outrageous and unacceptable,” he said.

He said the threshold for the new law is the banning of journalists that are members of the National Union of Journalists (NUJ) would not be allowed. He said all journalists are “stronger for being members of unions”. 

Cullinane said large media conglomerates are expanding, and there is a need to protect the free press.

While he said he is not insinuating that there is any foreign interference in the press in Ireland, Cullinane said they must ensure there are safeguards in place.

The government has placed an timed amendment of 18 months on the proposed Bill. Cullinane said the government wants over two years to look at and assess the Bill, which he says “makes a mockery of the process”.

He said there is a Committee Stage for a reason, adding that if amendments need to be made by the government they can be teased out there. 

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Placing a delay on the Bill is “kicking the can down the road”, said Cullinane.

Communications Minister Catherine Martin said the banning journalists from certain media organisations is a “step in the wrong direction” and is something that needs to be challenged. 

Journalism is a public good and one of the pillars of democracy, she added, stating that it must be protected.

She also said she believes in the safeguarding of media plurality. 

Journalists should be able to do their work without fear of reprisal that could take the form of bans from a certain platforms, she said.

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