Monday 19 March 2018

Doherty worried Murdoch papers trying to influence abortion voting

Minister Regina Doherty
Minister Regina Doherty

A cabinet minister said she would be concerned if a British newspaper owned by Rupert Murdoch was seeking to influence the referendum on the Eighth Amendment.

Social Protection Minister Regina Doherty said it "isn't helpful" when newspapers and international media groups actively campaign for one side of an election debate

"I would have a concern that any media outlet would report in an impartial way," she said.

"There is a responsibility to provide a balanced approach and it isn't helpful that, I think, anybody needs to be told what to do from a media outlet or news organisation.

"I wouldn't welcome it, but sometimes you can't control it."

Ms Doherty, who backs un- restricted abortion up to 12 weeks, was responding to questions about the The Times Ireland edition's campaign against Ireland's abortion laws.

The editor of the recently established newspaper, Richard Oakley, has said he intends for his publication to openly favour one side of the debate in the abortion referendum.

However, he added that his newspaper's stance on abortion does not affect its reporting on one of the most divisive issues of modern Irish political debate.


He also said any stories his newspaper publishes will be "factually correct from start to finish".

Mr Oakley's editorial stance directly clashes with Ms Doherty's insistence that news- papers should take an entirely impartial approach to the referendum.

Mr Oakley has denied that his newspaper group is seeking to influence the outcome of the referendum by paying for pro-abortion content on Facebook.

He refused to comment when asked if his newspaper or its sister publication, the Irish edition of The Sunday Times, ever used Facebook to promote pro-life news stories.

A recent pro-choice story in The Sunday Times headlined "HSE used Eighth to try and force me to have a caesarean" has been appearing as a sponsored post from the paper in Facebook users' feeds.

Mr Oakley has confirmed the post was targeted at users on both sides of the abortion debate.

Independent TD Mattie McGrath criticised the British newspaper group for paying for Facebook sponsored content to promote stories supporting one side of the referendum campaign.

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