The Silence of the Media Lambs

Newspapers defy courts when they think it is right and proper journalism to do so. Clearly, in Ireland today, mere trifles such as democracy and the right of parliamentarians to speak truth to power, those are not worth it.  Our media have, shamefully, elected selfcensorship.

[REDACTED] took an injunction against ONE media outlet, RTE, stopping it broadcasting material. Ok, fair enough. All media had knowledge of this and felt bound by it. Again, so far so standard.

Catherine Murphy TD spoke, on record and at length, about the business dealings of [REDACTED] in the Dail, our national parliament. Utterances therein are 100% absolutely and completely privileged. There is a very strong legal, and an unassailable moral argument, that reportage of these statements is also covered. An ex attorney general and ex minister for justice has more or less said so today in the Irish Times. An eminent constitutional lawyer academic has also suggested same. [UPDATE – For a brief while there were comments open on the Irish Times oped by McDowell. These have now been closed and the comments therein deleted. Another great day for journalism] [UPDATE2 – they are back….mysterious and mysteriouser]

And silence reigns. Our national broadcaster is crawling to the High Court sometime next week to seek permission to report what a parlimentarian said. The newspapers, even the ones not owned or controlled by [REDACTED] dance around, suggestign that we google a site. Never was the uselessness and impotence of the irish media shown so well as their willingness to self censor. For that is what it is, self censorship. They are not afraid of the courts – they will defy them at journalistic need. They are afraid of [REDACTED].

Well, im not. Nor are the thousands of persons on social media who have rebroadcast what Murphy said. Nor are the Guardian or the BBC or the New York Times.

Many journalists are annoyed that I use the word cowardice. Well, thats what it seems to me. They argue that they are covered by the injunction. We dont, by the way, know the terms of the injunction. But we can guess that the material to have been broadcast was the material read into the record by Murphy, else why would they consider themselves bound to not repeat it.

But here is the thing. Lets say they print what we know. Then one of two things happen. The courts say they cannot. There is a genuine, fullblown constitutional crisis, where a court is preventing coverage of parliament. Thats news, surely? Or the courts say they can. And thats news. But I guess its easier to selfcensor, to stay in the warm torpid shrinking pool that is the mainstream media in Ireland. Above all, dont rock the boat. And dont offend [REDACTED], also known as Sue in the media and legal world.

2 thoughts on “The Silence of the Media Lambs

  1. Póló

    Good summary.

    “Redacted the Ineffable” is certainly a serious problem for democracy and current events may even start to put a different perspective on others that had been thought to have been put to bed.

  2. John C

    When the current matter has blown over, the legacy it will leave will merely be the addition of a clause to future draft orders along the lines of ‘other than publication made under constitutional privilege’. The Law Library will find a way around this easily enough.


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