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Ó Snodaigh gives Defamation Bill extremely qualified welcome

14 May, 2008

Sinn Féin Justice Spokesperson Aengus Ó Snodaigh TD has given the Defamation Bill 2006 an extremely qualified welcome. Speaking in the Dáil this evening Deputy Ó Snodaigh said Sinn Féin will be tabling substantive amendments to the Bill and his party's position on it will depend on the Government's response to those amendments.

Deputy Ó Snodaigh said, "Control of media sources is in an ever decreasing number of hands with successful market entry dependent on access to literally tens of millions of euro to bank roll media start ups. Irish media outlets, whether they are local papers, radio stations or internet sites have never been more valuable and more sought after and are increasingly owned by a small number of media conglomerates.

"Certain media outlets have been, and are being, blatantly misused by their owners to pursue a vehemently anti-republican agenda, making carefully phrased and frequent groundless allegations against Sinn Féin elected representatives and supporters without substantiation. To date there is no effective mechanism to hold the media to account for this.

"The media can act in the comforting knowledge that the cost of seeking justice through the courts is prohibitively expensive for ordinary people. In addition in the case of elected representatives, who have been put in office by the voting public and who are dedicated to representing their constituents as they have been mandated to do, the media are all too aware that the risk of bankruptcy which would prohibit representatives from holding public office is simply too great a risk to take. It is one they should not have to take.

"Sinn Féin fully supports the right to information and therefore freedom of the press as a basic cornerstone of a democratic rights-based society. We are opposed to censorship, media monopoly, and also abuse of the press by vested interests through publication of biased or false information including on individuals and groups.

"In keeping with this, we believe that the media industry should be fairly regulated and accountable in the public interest - much as the media itself rightly demands of other bodies and institutions.

"I want to give an extremely qualified welcome to this Bill and to indicate that it is our intention to table amendments covering the issues I have outlined today and others. Ultimately we will consider our final position on the Bill once it has passed through Committee and Report Stage." ENDS

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