Anne-Marie McNally, the Political Director of the Social Democrats, has expressed concern at the connection of Independent News and Media to a major public event on freedom of speech and the conflicts between journalism and the law. Ms McNally questioned the professional judgement of both Trinity College Dublin and Columbia University in choosing to partner with INM for such an event given the fact that INM’s largest shareholder has initiated 21 separate High Court proceedings since 2010 as well as a current Supreme Court appeal, many of which seek to curtail the work of journalists and/or challenge the actions of elected parliamentarians in speaking out on issues of public concern.
Ms McNally said:
“I am surprised to see this event, which is organised between two prestigious institutions, Trinity College and Columbia University, being run in partnership with INM. The topic of the event is ‘Freedom of Speech: Where journalism and the law collide’, well nowhere in Ireland is that collision more stark then when one looks at the many court actions taken by Mr Denis O’Brien, the largest shareholder in INM, against journalists and or media outlets in this country. It is also impossible to ignore the current situation regarding Communicorp –which Mr O’Brien also owns, and its blanket ban on Irish Times journalists.”
“I wonder are the distinguished academics aware of such issues and are they comfortable that an organisation such as INM – an organisation where former editors and journalists have claimed editorial control was exerted over them by the largest shareholder – is a partner in this event. I would question if those academics realise the extent of INM’s largest shareholder’s media ownership in Ireland and the issues that raises regarding media plurality.”
“There is an obvious conflict here and I suggest that the organisers rethink the partnership. I understand INM are not providing funding for the event but the event is being run in partnership with INM. Media plurality and brave journalism are such a crucial part of a healthy and vibrant democracy and a conference highlighting that should not allow itself to be compromised by partnering with an organisation owned by an individual who exerts what is commonly known as a ‘chilling effect’ on Irish media.
26th Oct 2017