From the Irish Times:
With the increase in news gathering and reporting increasing on the internet, chairman of the Press Council Daithí Ó Ceallaigh said web-based organisations or publications could benefit by joining its independent regulatory regime.This is a significant development. Membership of the Press Council and adherence to its Code of Practice offers periodicals a significant benefit in establishing a defence of fair and reasonable publication on a matter of public interest. The narrow definition of "periodical" in the Defamation Act 2009, however, created doubt as to whether an online-only publication would qualify for membership.
“When this happens – and at least one new web-based organisation has already been accepted as one of the recent new members of the council – we are ready to play a positive role in light of our own experience in support of the highest possible journalistic standards.”
Eoin O'Dell took the view that it wouldn't (a view which I shared) though the last Minister for Justice later took a contrary view, claiming that:
The question of whether publications existing "on-line" only, either now or in the future, wish to come under the umbrella of the Press Council - and abide by its code of practice - is a matter for those publications. Nothing in the Defamation Act precludes this. Neither have I noticed any express limitation of jurisdiction in the Articles of Association of the Press Council on membership by on-line publications. Some recent commentary from media experts seems to have missed this point.The Press Council itself has now clearly taken the position that online-only periodicals are eligible for membership, which will certainly cause a number of Irish websites to consider joining.
One note of caution, however: it will ultimately be for a court to determine whether an online-only site is a "periodical" for the purposes of the defence of fair and reasonable publication. The views of the Press Council on this point will be relevant but certainly not conclusive.
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