The freedom to publish is vital to the right of the people to be informed. This freedom includes the right of the press to publish what it considers to be news, without fear or favour, and the right to comment upon it.
Freedom of the press carries responsibilities. Members of the press have a duty to maintain the highest professional and ethical standards.
This Code sets the benchmark for those standards. It is the duty of the Press Ombudsman and Press Council of Ireland to ensure that it is honoured in the spirit as well as in the letter, and it is the duty of Press Council print and online media members (the press) to assist them in that task.
In dealing with complaints, the Ombudsman and Press Council will give consideration to what they perceive to be the public interest. It is for them to define the public interest in each case, but the general principle is that the public interest is invoked in relation to a matter capable of affecting the people at large so that they may legitimately be interested in receiving and the print and online news media legitimately interested in providing information about it.
Principle 1 - Truth and Accuracy
1.1 In reporting news and information, the press shall strive at all times for truth and accuracy.
1.2 When a significant inaccuracy, misleading statement or distorted report or picture has been published, it shall be corrected promptly and with due prominence.
1.3 When appropriate, a retraction, apology, clarification, explanation or response shall be published promptly and with due prominence.
Principle 2 - Distinguishing Fact and Comment
2.1 The press is entitled to advocate strongly its own views on topics.
2.2 Comment, conjecture, rumour and unconfirmed reports shall not be reported as if they are fact.
2.3 Readers are entitled to expect that the content of the press reflects the best judgment of editors and writers and has not been inappropriately influenced by undisclosed interests. Wherever relevant, any significant financial interest of an organization should be disclosed. Writers should disclose significant potential conflicts of interest to their editors.
Principle 3 - Fair Procedures and Honesty
3.1 The press shall strive at all times for fair procedures and honesty in the procuring and publishing of news and information.
3.2 The press shall not obtain information, photographs or other material through misrepresentation or subterfuge, unless justified by the public interest.
3.3 Journalists and photographers must not obtain, or seek to obtain, information and photographs through harassment, unless their actions are justified in the public interest.
Principle 4 - Respect for Rights
Everyone has constitutional protection for his or her good name. The press shall not knowingly publish matter based on malicious misrepresentation or unfounded accusations, and must take reasonable care in checking facts before publication.
Principle 5 - Privacy
5.1 Privacy is a human right, protected as a personal right in the Irish Constitution and the European Convention on Human Rights, which is incorporated into Irish law. The private and family life, home and correspondence of everyone must be respected.
5.2 Readers are entitled to have news and comment presented with respect for the privacy and sensibilities of individuals. However, the right to privacy should not prevent publication of matters of public record or in the public interest.
5.3 Sympathy and discretion must be shown at all times in seeking information in situations of personal grief or shock. In publishing such information, the feelings of grieving families should be taken into account. This should not be interpreted as restricting the right to report judicial proceedings.
5.4 Public persons are entitled to privacy. However, where people hold public office, deal with public affairs, follow a public career, or have sought or obtained publicity for their activities, publication of relevant details of their private life and circumstances may be justifiable where the information revealed relates to the validity of the their conduct, the credibility of their public statements, the value of their publicly expressed views or is otherwise in the public interest.
5.5 Taking photographs of individuals in private places without their consent is not acceptable, unless justified by the public interest.
Principle 6 - Protection of Sources
Journalists shall protect confidential sources of information.
Principle 7 - Court Reporting
The press shall strive to ensure that court reports (including the use of images) are fair and accurate, are not prejudicial to the right to a fair trial and that the presumption of innocence is respected.
Principle 8 - Prejudice
The press shall not publish material intended or likely to cause grave offence or stir up hatred against an individual or group on the basis of their race, religion, nationality, colour, ethnic origin, membership of the travelling community, gender, sexual orientation, marital status, disability, illness or age.
Principle 9 - Children
9.1 The press shall take particular care in seeking and presenting information or comment about a child under the age of 18.
9.2 Journalists and editors should have regard for the vulnerability of children, and in all dealings with children should bear in mind the age of the child, whether parental or other adult consent has been obtained for such dealings, the sensitivity of the subject-matter, and what circumstances if any make the story one of public interest. Young people should be free to complete their time at school without unnecessary intrusion. The fame, notoriety or position of a parent or guardian must not be used as sole justification for publishing details of a child's private life.
Principle 10 - Reporting of Suicide
In the reporting of suicide, excessive detail of the means of suicide should be avoided.
Principle 11 - Publication of the Decision of the Press Ombudsman / Press Council
11.1 When requested or required by the Press Ombudsman and/or the Press Council to do so, the press shall publish the decision in relation to a complaint with due prominence.
11.2 The content of this Code will be reviewed at regular intervals.