The Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform, Mr. Dermot Ahern, T.D., announced today that he is asking the Dáil and Séanad to approve an Order by him declaring the formal recognition of the Press Council of Ireland as the "Press Council".

Minister Ahern said that the application from the Press Council of Ireland under section 44 of the Defamation Act 2009 has been examined with reference to the requirements in Schedule 2 of the Act and that he was satisfied that the application met those requirements.

These requirements involve the objectives of the Press Council, its composition, its independence, the appointment of independent directors, financial arrangements, the role and operation of the Office of Press Ombudsman and a code of standards.

Formal recognition will confer certain benefits on the Press Council. A significant benefit is that qualified privilege will attach to its reports and decisions as well as those of the Press Ombudsman. Subscription to the Press Council and adherence to the Code of Practice for Newspapers and Periodicals will strengthen the entitlement to avail of the new defence of reasonable publication in any court action. Non-members of the Press Council will be required to have in place an equivalent fairness regime or to operate an equivalent and publicised code of standards to avail of that defence.

10 March 2010

Notes for editors 

The Defamation Act 2009, which commenced in its entirety on 1 January 2010, comprehensively reforms the law on defamation and replaces the previous legislation which dated from 1961. It provides a modern framework and it gives statutory expression to developments in the jurisprudence of our courts and elsewhere, including the European Court of Human Rights.

Section 44 of the 2009 Act provides for the Minister to make an Order, subject to the approval of both Houses of the Oireachtas granting recognition as a Press Council to a body that seeks recognition as such. It requires that the Minister be satisfied that the applicant body complies with the provisions set out in Schedule 2. No more than one such body can be recognised and the order may be revoked

Schedule 2 – Minimum requirements in relation to Press Council - 

The minimum requirements for recognition under the Act are:-
Ø        The Press Council shall be a company limited by guarantee.
Ø        The Press Council to be independent.
Ø        Entitlement of any periodical circulating in the State to be a member of the Press Council.
Ø        The Press Council to have 13 Directors, 7 "public interest", 5 owners and publishers and 1 journalist.
Ø        Selection and appointment of public interest directors.
Ø        Funding of Press Council by members' subscriptions.
Ø        The Press Council to have authority (through a Press Ombudsman or otherwise) to receive, hear and determine complaints.
Ø        Procedures for investigating, hearing and determining a complaint.
Ø        The Press Council to adopt a code of standards.