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67pc increase in volume of complaints to Press Ombudsman

John Horgan’s report for 2012 shows two articles were responsible for a significant surge of complaints to his office.

The annual report of the Press Ombudsman, Prof John Horgan, reveals that two pieces published in 2012 accounted for nearly half of all public complaints.
The annual report of the Press Ombudsman, Prof John Horgan, reveals that two pieces published in 2012 accounted for nearly half of all public complaints.
Image: Laura Hutton/Photocall Ireland

THE VOLUME OF COMPLAINTS to the Press Ombudsman grew by two-thirds last year, according to the office’s latest annual report.

Professor John Horgan’s report for 2012 (PDF) reveals that readers made 575 complaints to his office last year, complaining that various pieces had breached the Press Council’s Code of Practice for Newspapers and Magazines.

That marked a 67 per cent increase on the 343 complaints submitted in 2011 – though Horgan explained that most of the increase was down to two particular articles which attracted significant numbers of complaints from the public.

Those two articles had attracted “about 250″ complaints between them, with most alleging a breach of Principle 8 of the code of practice, relating to material which could stir up hatred against an individual or group.

One of those pieces – an article carrying comments from a Polish woman, given to a Polish newspaper, describing life on the social welfare system in Ireland – attracted a total of 161 complaints.

Horgan said none of these complaints had been formalised later, largely because of the Irish Independent’s own response – when it published a fuller version of the interview, an article from the Polish Ambassador to Ireland, and carried an acknowledgement that some parts of the original interview had been inaccurately translated.

Complaints about the truth and accuracy of content accounted for 292 of the 575 complaints, while pieces which had allegedly failed to distinguish between fact and comment were the subject of 82 complaints.

Two complaints related to the method in which previous decisions of the Press Ombudsman were published – including one case where the Press Ombudsman found that a newspaper had given undue prominence to its publication of a previous decision.

A complaint against the Evening Herald, over a piece discussing crime rates within the Travelling community, was upheld because the original piece had been published on a Wednesday, but a piece on the resulting Press Ombudsman ruling had only been published on a Saturday.

Read: Press Council defends record after Denis O’Brien libel action

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Gavan Reilly

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