Meade and the Sunday World
The Press Council has decided not to uphold a complaint by Ms Majella Meade about a number of articles published in the Sunday World.
Ms Meade complained about a number of articles published in the Sunday World about an organisation named the House of Prayer. The four articles complained of were headlined, “House of Pain” published on 30 November 2008, “House of Scandals” published on 28 December 2008, “She still Preys” published on 18 January 2009 and “Without a Prayer” published on 1 February 2009. Ms Meade complained that the articles breached the Code of Practice for Newspapers and Periodicals under Principle 1 (Truth and Accuracy), Principle 2 (Distinguishing Fact and Comment), Principle 3 (Fairness and Honesty), Principle 4 (Respect for Rights), Principle 5 (Privacy), Principle 6 (Protection of Sources), and Principle 8 (Incitement to Hatred). Ms Meade stated that she felt the newspaper was carrying out “a sustained” and “unwarranted attack”, which she considered to be a “vendetta”.
The newspaper responded that it had carried out its investigations into the “House of Prayer” as a matter of “serious public interest”, that it had endeavoured, without success, to contact some of the central figures involved in the organisation, and that it had sent a representative abroad to pursue its investigations into the organisation. The newspaper strenuously denied any breach of the Code of Practice
The Press Ombudsman referred the complaint to the Press Council of Ireland for decision.
The Press Council considered the complaint under the separate headings of the Code of Practice cited by the complainant.
There was no evidence that the newspaper did not strive for truth and accuracy in the articles under complaint. In addition, there was no evidence that the articles contained any significant inaccuracy, misleading statement or distorted report. In the circumstances, the complaint under Principle 1 was not upheld.
Under the Code of Practice, comment, conjecture, rumour and unconfirmed reports shall not be reported as if they were fact. In the articles under complaint, the comments complained of were either directly or indirectly attributed to named or unnamed sources. Their attribution was clear, and the articles therefore did not breach Principle 2 of the Code of Practice.
With regard to the complaint under Principle 3, the Press Council noted that the newspaper had made significant efforts to contact the persons mentioned in the articles for comment or reply. The fact that Ms Meade, who had not been mentioned in the articles, was not approached did not, in the Council’s view, constitute a breach of Principle 3. Regarding the publication of the photographs, the Council, having noted that all of them appeared to have been taken in public places, concluded that they had not been obtained through misrepresentation or subterfuge or through harassment and that therefore they did not breach Principle 3. In relation to Principle 4, the Press Council found that no breach of the Code occurred since the published material was not based on malicious misrepresentation or unfounded accusations and reasonable care had been taken by the newspaper to check facts.
In relation to Principle 5, the Press Council decided that no breach of the Code occurred as the material published did not interfere with the complainant’s right to privacy and, in any case, publication of the articles was in the public interest.
The complaint in relation to Principle 6 was not upheld as the Press Council took the view that the complainant had not put forward any legitimate grounds for her complaint that there was a breach of the Principle that journalists shall protect confidential sources of information.
In relation to the complaint under Principle 8, the Press Council decided that the articles did not breach this Principle of the Code of Practice on the grounds that they did not constitute “material intended or likely to cause grave offence or stir up hatred against an individual, or group” and nor were they intended or likely to give rise to such consequences on the basis of the complainant’s religion (or any of the other grounds listed in Principle 8). The complaint under Principle 8 was therefore not upheld.
3 July 2009