WAN-IFRA calls upon the Irish Government to amend its defamation laws to strengthen protection for freedom of expression.

New York City, USA – 2017-12-08

The Board of the World Association of Newspapers and News Publishers (WAN-IFRA), meeting on 8th December 2017 in New York, U.S.A., calls on the Irish Government to amend its defamation laws to strengthen protections for freedom of expression of the press.

The Board of WAN-IFRA notes with dismay that damages in defamation cases in the Republic of Ireland are much higher, often by a factor of ten, than in neighbouring jurisdictions; that the Irish Supreme Court, in a decision criticised by the European Court of Human Rights, made an award against one newspaper of €1.25 million; that the use of juries in press cases leads to unpredictability and extraordinarily high awards; and that the costs associated with defamation cases threaten the very existence of national and local titles.

The Board of WAN-IFRA expresses its solidarity with Irish newspapers seeking to have Irish law brought into line with that in other developed democracies. It reiterates the importance of a free, independent and vibrant press holding governments and the powerful to account, unhindered by repressive defamation laws.

The Board acknowledges the need for laws to protect, from unjust attack, the reputation of individuals. However, it endorses the oft-stated view of the European Court of Human Rights that unpredictable and excessive awards of damages and legal costs have a chilling effect upon the media and upon the right of the public to be informed of issues of significance.

The Board is aware that the Irish Government has undertaken a review of its defamation laws. It calls upon the Government to implement, without delay, changes to reduce or eliminate the threat posed to freedom of expression by its current defamation regime.

Vincent Peyrègne
Chief Executive Officer
WAN-IFRA | Paris, France