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'Highly concentrated' media ownership sees Ireland slip down press freedom rankings

The study sees the country drop from ninth last year to 14th this year.

Image: Sam Boal/Photocall Ireland

IRELAND’S HIGHLY CONCENTRATED media ownership has seen it slip down the press freedom rankings.

The study, published this week by non-profit Reporters Without Borders, sees the country drop from ninth last year to 14th this year.

The report says that the nature of ownership at Independent News and Media (INM), the country’s defamation laws and lack of press access to the gardaí are to blame.

INM – which publishes a slew of regional and national titles including the Irish Independent, Sunday Independent and the Herald – is part-owned by businessman Denis O’Brien, who also owns radio group Communicorp.

The report on Ireland says:

“The highly concentrated nature of media ownership in Ireland poses a major threat to press freedom.

“Independent News and Media (INM) controls 40% of the daily and Sunday newspaper market. The 1937 constitution guarantees media freedom but defamation lawsuits are common.

“Finally, interviewing police sources has been virtually impossible since the Garda Siochana Act of 2005, which bans police officers from talking to journalists without prior authorisation. Officers contravening the ban risk dismissal, a fine, or up to seven years in prison.”

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Writing for last week, Labour leader Brendan Howlin argued that media ownership in the country has to be diversified.

“We need to consider once more the full implications of a concentration of media ownership in Ireland. Media outlets hold great power. The public interest requires that the use of such power be carefully regulated.

“A loss of media plurality will certainly undermine the valuable role played by the media in our democracy.”

Read: ‘Are public broadcasting licenses being adhered to in Communicorp stations?’

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