'Out-dated defamation laws hurt press freedom' - industry body
Ireland's notoriously strict defamation laws need to be updated, according to a body for the national newspaper industry.
NewsBrands Ireland, marking today's World Press Freedom Day, has highlighted the significant challenge posed to freedom of expression by Ireland's stringent defamation regime.
The representative body has raised concerns about the level of awards made in defarmation cases in Ireland, and said that they are much higher than the rest of Europe.
The newspaper industry body also highlighted concerns that defamation cases are heard by juries.
NewsBrands Ireland said the decision of the Supreme Court to award €1.25m to communications consultant Monica Leech highlighted the need for change.
"The decision of the Supreme Court to award €1.25m in a case... puts Ireland wholly out of kilter with its neighbouring jurisdictions," said a spokesperson for NewsBrands Ireland.
"The award is approximately 10 times higher than would have been made in the UK."
Ireland is also the only country in Europe where defamation actions are heard before a jury.
In Britain, trials are held without a jury "unless the court orders otherwise".
NewsBrands Ireland believes the current defamation laws have impacted the media's role as a watchdog.
A spokesperson said: "The retention of the jury system creates delays and also a lack of certainty for publishers who have no way to ascertain the extent of their potential liability.
"As a result, many newspapers simply won't take the risk of publishing an article. This has a chilling effect on the media's role as the watchdog of the public.
"It is time for Ireland's defamation laws to be brought into line with the rest of Europe."