Ireland: Irish Times journalists banned from Communicorp airwaves


Denis O’Brien, the owner of Communicorp

Denis O’Brien, the owner of Communicorp

Staff from the Irish Times will no longer appear on Ireland’s only two national commercial radio stations. The ban was laid out in a memo to Newstalk and Today FM staff on 5 October.

“The blacklisting of journalists in any context is deeply problematic but is more so in a media market that is as concentrated as Ireland’s. We call on the management of Communicorp to reverse this decision and support a plurality of voices,” Hannah Machlin, project manager for Mapping Media Freedom, said.

The memo of Communicorp’s radio outlets followed a 12 September 2017 commentary by Irish Times journalist Fintan O’Toole that criticised Newstalk presenter George Hook’s remarks about rape made on air on 9 September. O’Toole also took the station to task for its male-dominated lineup of presenters during prime hours, saying he would not appear on the Newstalk again as it had become “the most flagrantly sexist public organisation in Ireland”.

After the article and a social media campaign, Hook was suspended from Newstalk on 15 September.

Communicorp’s chief executive Adrian Serle said the decision to ban Irish Times journalists from Newstalk and Today FM programmes was made in response to O’Toole’s “vile comments”.

In response to the ban, the Broadcasting Authority of Ireland said it would “write to [the] Communicorp Group to clarify a number of matters in respect of editorial independence” in a statement to the Irish Times, along with the National Union of Journalists calling on Communicorp to reconsider its position.

O’Toole also tweeted he was “delighted” that Denis O’Brien, the owner of Communicorp, is “upholding free speech by banning all Irish Times journalists from all stations”.[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column][vc_basic_grid post_type=”post” max_items=”12″ style=”load-more” items_per_page=”4″ element_width=”6″ grid_id=”vc_gid:1508149136704-f9f62e37-b6a5-5″ taxonomies=”76″][/vc_column][/vc_row]

Ireland's new blasphemy law: blame the recession

Irish Minister for Justice Dermot Ahern turns up in the Irish Times this morning, attempting to reassure voters that creating an offence of ‘blasphemous libel’ is an essentially benign move, and pointing out that, constitutionally, blasphemy is supposed to be a punishable offence:

‘My intention is to remove the possibility of prison sentences and private prosecutions for blasphemy, currently provided in Irish law.’

So far, so good. But Ahern continues:

‘The only credible alternative to this move is a blasphemy referendum, which I consider, in the current circumstances, a costly and unwarranted diversion.’

So essentially, this unwanted, unneeded and unpopular law is being pushed through because it would be too much trouble and expense to have a referendum.

Meanwhile, in the same paper, columnist John Waters, himself a deeply religious man, denounces Ahern’s proposal in a thoughtful piece, where he worries that legislating against blasphemy could chill jokes and humour:

‘It is true that we now live in a culture where what passes for humour is often elevated beyond merit, but the right to speak and joke freely remains as precious as the right to religious freedom. In truth, because both relate to the fundamental impulses of humanity, they are almost co-terminous.’