A free press remains the indispensable means of keeping the public informed and holding those in positions of power accountable.
In Ireland, however, the level of awards in defamation cases presents a huge challenge to freedom of expression.
The uncertainty surrounding awards prevents a publisher from ascertaining the extent of potential liability and, given the costs involved, many newspapers simply won’t take the risk of publishing an article, no matter how certain they are of their facts.
Defamation awards are much higher here than the rest of Europe. The decision of the Supreme Court last December to award €1.25million in a case which it accepted was not the most serious of defamation actions puts Ireland wholly out of kilter with its neighbouring jurisdictions. The award is approximately ten times higher than would have been made in the UK. Sums of this magnitude threaten the very existence of media organisations.
This has a chilling effect on the media’s role as the watchdog of the public to the detriment of democratic discourse.
Click on links below to read opinion pieces about our Defamation laws: