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Judge says RTÉ's decision not to release information about its climate change coverage must be revisited

The ruling was made in the High Court today.

Image: Mark Stedman/RollingNews.ie

THE HIGH COURT has ordered the Commissioner for Environmental Information to reconsider a decision that allowed RTÉ not to release documents about how it reports on climate change.

In a judgment published today, judge Max Barrett told the Commissioner to decide again on efforts by the transparency group Right to Know to obtain information from RTÉ.

The group had appealed to the Commissioner – a watchdog for access to information – after the broadcaster rejected its appeal for records in 2018.

Right to Know sought information relating to “how RTÉ reports on climate change issues” and any “policies/guidelines on climate change reporting”.

The request – which was made under Access to Information on the Environment (AIE) regulations, a form of Freedom of Information query – was refused by the broadcaster in December 2018 because the records were not deemed “environmental”. 

The following year, the Commissioner upheld RTÉ’s decision following an appeal by Right to Know.

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In today’s judgement, Barret ruled as “inconsistent” a finding by the Commissioner that RTÉ broadcasts were considered crucial enough to be protected by journalistic privilege, but not important enough that they could likely have an impact on the environment.

He found that the Commissioner had failed to engage with a case made by Right to Know that there is a link between climate change reporting and the ability of RTÉ – as a public service broadcaster – to influence public opinion and individual behaviour.

The Commissioner was ordered to reconsider the decision to reject Right to Know’s appeal for records, with costs in the case to be decided at a later date.

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