114/2019 - A Man and the Irish Daily Star
The Press Ombudsman has insufficient evidence to make a decision on a complaint that the Irish Daily Star breached Principle 1 (Truth and Accuracy) of the Code of Practice of the Press Council of Ireland. He has decided not to uphold a complaint that Principle 2 (Distinguishing Fact and Comment) had been breached.
The Irish Daily Star carried a report on the amount of money the Irish Prison Service spent on Open University courses for prisoners in the previous two years. The article included a claim that it had been reported that a named prisoner had requested permission to undertake a doctoral degree while serving his sentence.
The man, named as the prisoner in the article, wrote to the editor of the Irish Daily Star stating that “it is not true that I sought permission from Prison Authorities to study for a Doctoral Degree” and that Principles 1 and 2 of the Code of Practice had been breached.
As the man did not receive a reply from the editor, he made a formal complaint to the Office of the Press Ombudsman.
In a submission to the Office of the Press Ombudsman the editor of the Irish Daily Star defended the article as published stating that the claim in the article was that “it had been reported” that the man had requested permission to undertake doctoral studies. He included links to five previous articles in other newspapers to support the claim made in the article under complaint. On the weight of this evidence, he said, he could see no reason as to why the complaint should be upheld.
The man replied, repeating that the claim that he had requested permission to undertake doctoral studies was “not true” and that he could not respond to “each and every false story” published about him.
As the complaint could not be resolved by conciliation it was forwarded to the Press Ombudsman for a decision.
Neither the man nor the newspaper provided the Office of the Press Ombudsman with any evidence that the statement that the man had requested permission to undertake doctoral studies was either accurate or inaccurate. The man stated that it was inaccurate. The Irish Daily Star stated that it had been reported that the man had sought such permission, and submitted five articles to show that the statement had been previously reported. In these circumstances the Press Ombudsman has insufficient evidence to decide if Principle 1 was breached.
As the newspaper stated that it had been reported that the complainant had sought permission to study for a doctoral degree and did not state it as fact, Principle 2 has not been breached.
12 August 2019
Note: The complainant chose to have the decision reported without revealing his identity.