What is press regulation?
Press regulation is a way of making sure that member newspapers and magazines comply with an agreed set of ethical standards and behaviours. These standards include things like accuracy, fairness, privacy and other journalistic principles. Behaviour includes things like exercising sympathy and discretion, avoiding harassment, and other aspects of the working life of journalists. They are set out in detail in the Code of Practice.
What happened before now?
Before now, if you had a complaint against the press you had two options.
You could go directly to the publication concerned and ask the editor for an apology. (Our old libel regime, however, meant that editors were often afraid to apologise.) Or you could take a libel action and go to court - a very expensive option, usually only for the wealthy or well-connected. The libel regime has now been changed by the enactment of the Defamation Act 2009, which not only makes it possible for publications to apologise in certain circumstances, but which formally recognises the important role played by the Press Council and the Office of the Press Ombudsman.
Now, with the establishment of the Office of the Press Ombudsman and the Press Council of Ireland, everyone in Ireland has access to an independent press complaints mechanism that is quick, fair and free. This is one of the most positive developments in the history of Ireland's newspaper and magazine industry.
The new complaints mechanism is designed to ensure that the freedom of the press is never abused, and that the public interest is always served. These are the main principles of independent press regulation all around the world.
How does it work?
Press regulation gives people an opportunity to complain to the Office of the Press Ombudsman if they feel that a newspaper or magazine has breached the Code of Practice. The service is free, it's designed to resolve complaints quickly, and because the system is independent, its decisions are always fair. This means it's good for the public... and good for the press.
Why should it be independent?
Independent press regulation is the most objective, credible and transparent form of press regulation. Both the Office of the Press Ombudsman and the Press Council of Ireland are independent of government and, in operation, independent of media. Independent press regulation works best because it relies on the voluntary commitment of newspaper and periodical editors and journalists: by signing up to the Code of Practice, they are promising to adhere to those journalistic principles.