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Complaints made to Press Ombudsman increased by almost 40% last year

Just over 15% of the complaints related to one article – a court report of a case involving a 15-year-old girl.

Image: Shutterstock/Billion Photos

COMPLAINTS MADE BY members of the public to the Press Ombudsman about news publications increased by almost 40% last year compared to 2019. 

The Press Council of Ireland and the Office of the Press Ombudsman released their 2020 report today.

The report outlined that just over 15% of last year’s complaints related to one article published in a number of media outlets – a court report of a case involving a 15-year-old girl. 

The complaints were resolved through an advisory notice issued on the terminology used when reporting matters related to the prosecution of sexual offences against children. 

The chair of the Press Council, Seán Donlon, said the impact of Covid-19 “dominated newspapers, magazines and online-only news services in 2020″.

“The Irish media’s response to the challenge of reporting on the first pandemic for over a hundred years was overwhelmingly professional with the provision of objective information, analysis and debate,” Donlon said in a statement.

“This considerable achievement was made against a backdrop of significant declining resources and the need for remote working.”

The Press Ombudsman’s office received 347 complaints in 2020, compared to 252 in 2019. 

204 complaints referred to national newspapers (both print and online), 27 to online-only news publications and 23 to local papers (print and online). 

The Press Council of Ireland oversees the professional principles in the council’s code of practice and also upholds the freedom of the press.

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The Office of the Press Ombudsman receives complaints from members of the public and seeks to find a resolution.

52 complaints issued last year referred to Covid-19. 

The Press Council considered 14 appeals in 2020 – three of which were upheld and 11 rejected. 

The council said in the report that it is disappointed “once more” at the delay to reform the 2009 Defamation Act. 

Half of all complaints processed last year were resolved to the satisfaction of complainants, the report said. 

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