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Monday 11 December 2023 Dublin: 10°C File
Press Freedom

Ireland has slipped down in press freedom rankings because of concentrated ownership and defamation costs

Ireland was ninth in 2016, but is down to 16th.

IRELAND HAS FALLEN two places in a worldwide press freedom ranking, and is down seven places from two years ago.

The study, published this week by non-profit Reporters Without Borders, sees the country drop from 14th to 16th.

The study says that the concentration of ownership across private and state-funded channels and defamation laws mean the country’s media is less free than Costa Rica, Jamaica and Austria among others.

“Independent News and Media (INM) controls much of the daily and Sunday newspaper market, while broadcasting is dominated by the semi-state company RTE. The 1937 constitution guarantees media freedom, but defamation suits are common. The high damages awarded by Irish courts in defamation cases have prompted calls for a review of Ireland’s defamation legislation.”

It adds that the proposed Communications (Retention of Data) Bill has been criticised for failing to provide protections for journalists. It also adds that speaking to gardaí is “virtually impossible”.

Triple whammy

Overall, the report said that worldwide reporters were the target of a growing wave of authoritarianism with leaders whipping up hostility against them.

The group accused the world’s three superpowers — the US, China and Russia — of leading the charge against press freedom, with Trump regularly launching personal attacks on reporters and Beijing exporting its “media control model” to strangle dissent elsewhere in Asia.

The slide towards “strongman” and populist politics in Europe, stoked by Moscow, was threatening freedoms in the region where they were once safest, it added, with Hungary, Slovakia and Poland setting off alarm bells.

Czech President Milos Zeman turned up at a press conference with a fake Kalashnikov inscribed with the words “for journalists” while Slovakia’s former leader Robert Fico called journalists “filthy anti-Slovak prostitutes” and “idiotic hyenas”.

“The unleashing of hatred towards journalists is dangerous and a threat to democracy,” RSF chief Christophe Deloire told AFP.

“Political leaders who fuel loathing for reporters… undermine the concept of public debate based on facts instead of propaganda. To dispute the legitimacy of journalism today is to play with extremely dangerous political fire,” he added.

Repressed states

North Korea remains the most repressive country on Earth closely followed by Eritrea, Turkmenistan, Syria and then China.

Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, Vietnam, Sudan and Cuba also remain among the worst offenders, according to the RSF ranking of 180 countries.

Malta tumbled 18 places to 65 after the assassination of investigative journalist Daphne Caruana Galizia.

But not all the news was bad. Ecuador jumped 13 places after tensions eased between the government and privately-owned media, while Justin Trudeau’s Canada entered the European-dominated top 20.

With AFP reporting

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