Thursday 18 July 2013

Press Ombudsman - a complete waste of time and money

You may recall the nasty and vicious anti-Catholic diatribe launched by Professor Thomas Crown some weeks ago.  You can read about it and my comments here.

Having complained to the Sunday Independent with no response (they're supposed to reply within two weeks to formal complaints under the Press Code) I complained to the Press Ombudsman.

First they lost the email.  Ok, that can happen.  So I wrote again.  They turned around a response very quickly:

Date: Thu, 18 Jul 2013 14:46:52 +0000
I refer again to the complaint that you submitted to this Office about an article published in the Sunday Independent on l9 May 2013.

As you know, for a complaint to be considered by this Office it must be accompanied by sufficient evidence of a possible breach of the Code of Practice for Newspapers and Magazines (copy attached for ease of reference). In this regard, this Office notes that you feel that the article in question breached Principle 8 of the Code because of your belief that the tone and content of the article was intended to and likely to cause grave offence or stir up hatred against Catholics.

The Preamble to the Code of Practice for Newspapers and Magazines, which is an integral part of the Code, sets out the basic values on which the Code of Practice is based and, in a number of important matters, indicates clearly how these Principles are to be applied. Under the Code, newspapers and magazines are entitled to advocate strongly their own views on topics. They are therefore free to publish articles containing opinions or comments, so long as such opinions or comments do not otherwise present evidence of a breach of the Code. Such articles frequently give offence, but this in itself is not evidence of a breach of the Code.

The column about which you complain was a comment article, and as such enjoys a wide measure of protection under the provision of the Preamble, which states:

“The freedom to publish is vital to the right of the people to be informed. This freedom includes the right of a newspaper to publish what it considers to be news, without fear or favour, and the right to comment on it.”

I am sorry that this Office cannot be of more assistance to you on this occasion.

Yours sincerely

So, essentially, the preamble to the code completely negates the rest of the code.


  1. This was not a substantive response. The issue of contravention of Principle 8 of the Code was not examined with respect to the impugned statements by Senator Crown as published in the Sunday Independent. The general principle of freedom of the Press alluded to in the Preamble cannot be invoked to override the more specific prohibition contained in Principle 8. And, in fact, the more general principle does not restrict the applicability of 8. The only fact relied upon by the Ombudsman is that Senator Crown's piece is an opinion or comment piece. The Ombudsman has erroneously purported to disapply Principle 8 of the Code to opinion or comment pieces per se. This is clearly erroneous and outside his powers. The Ombudsman has not carried out the examination that is required in this case, as a result. This is a failure to carry out a positive duty on the part of the Ombudsman.

  2. Get a grip. The piece by John Crown referred to a "fringe" group of Catholics and a particular political stance they were taking, he was not referring to all Catholics, as is very obvious, because most Catholics in the Dáil were approving the legislation the group referred to opposed.
    Of course there is a balance required between press freedom and articles calculated to create prejudice, but the prejudice in this case is not against a whole religion, just the extreme fringe. Other point raised, about loyalty to foreign powers etc, are fair game for discussion.
    Seems like the Ombudsman is coming down on the right side of the equation.

  3. Anonymous's special pleading on behalf of Crown ( John = the baldy/ugly geezer with the irritating Canadian accent ; not the handsome one from the " Thomas Crown Affair " movie ) does'nt convince. In Crowns weird world its clear that all pro-life Catholics are suspect & not loyal Statist citizens. As an interesting aside, it's no coincidence that Crown spent many years in Canada, where intolerant liberal/feminist fundamentalism is rampant. I suspect that's the source of his vile ideology.