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« Bad day for an honest politician | Main | Passive smoking and the price of propaganda »
Wednesday
Nov172010

Banned! Sadly, it's not only the Irish economy that's in trouble

Since the launch of Forest Eireann in August we have been slowly developing a media profile in Ireland. Spokesman John Mallon has been interviewed by nine Irish radio stations, some more than once, and he has been quoted in several local newspapers.

Today however we can reveal that the Irish Examiner, based in Cork (ironically John's home city), is refusing to publish any tobacco-related comments by Forest on its letters page and, by implication, any other section of the paper.

Confirmation that letters from Forest Eireann have been banned by the paper followed two telephone conversations between John and the letters editor. After the second conversation on Monday, John wrote to the letters editor expressing his disappointment at this interesting turn of events. In return he received the following response:

John, the editor says there is no way he going to allow his paper to be used in any way as a vehicle for a lobby - funded or not - that condones or promotes the consumption of a hazardous subject - legal or not. As a lifelong smoker I agree with him.

As I said yesterday, our columns are open to your views on any other issue provided it is from your home or (if relevant) work address ... just like every other contributor to the letters column. Regs. letters editor, Irish Examiner

John has the full story on the Forest Eireann blog HERE. He concludes, more in sorrow than in than anger:

It's saddening and maddening in equal measure. I began reading the Examiner all of 43 years ago and, coincidentally, I started smoking around that same time.

Now, because of my association with a legitimate lobby group that is long overdue in Ireland, they intend to censor my opinions. They also intend to deny Forest Eireann a platform for views that are shared by hundreds of thousands of Irish citizens including, I suspect, many of their own readers.

It's a setback for Forest Eireann, but it's a much bigger blow for free speech and for the reputation of the Irish Examiner.

Today Ireland stands on the edge of a financial precipice. Sadly, with this absurd attack on free speech, it's not only the Irish economy that's in trouble ...

Reader Comments (6)

Stark but not surprising. The normal anti smoker attitude to counter debate. Pretend it's not there. Are their shareholders/owners happy with it? If they are, nothing anyone can do but I doubt they'd be happy with just being an ASH flysheet with added news.

November 18, 2010 at 10:13 | Unregistered CommenterFrank

The Irish Examiner is not a newspaper - its a propaganda sheet. I think the Irish arm of the National Union of Journalists would (should) have something to day about this. Item 1 of the NUJ's Code of Conduct (number one no less) says:

1. At all times upholds and defends the principle of media freedom, the right of freedom of expression and the right of the public to be informed.

It seems to me that the Irish Examiner is in breach of both items here: 'freedom of expression' - those opposed to the smoking ban, whether individuals or groups, should have their viewpoints published (and questioned and countered, nothing wrong with a debate) and also 'the right of the public to be informed' - the Irish public should known that there are people who are opposed to the ban. It seems to me that we are constantly being told that the ban (in Ireland and the UK) is very popular. I personally question that.

I respectfully suggest to John that he approaches the NUJ ethics committee and asks them what they think.

November 18, 2010 at 11:35 | Unregistered CommenterMark Butcher

Boycott it!

November 18, 2010 at 14:13 | Unregistered CommenterPat Nurse

Are anti-tobacco-control/pro-choice letters from readers still to be allowed? Would readers ever know?

I keep getting emails from a group in the USA. It seems to be a lobby group which is intent on exposing how biased the press there is. The duty/role of the press seems to be a global problem.

I'm not a journalist and I've always been puzzled by this. On the one hand, newspapers are businesses and are at liberty to select the stories which they report and to determine the slant with which they report them. On the other hand, they talk about 'the public interest' and free speech as if they believe that they have a duty of care to report, dispassionately, issues that are in the public interest..

Are newspapers nowadays, in the face of declining sales of hard copy, driven to report/publish only that which they consider to be populist?

We have various journalists here: Pat, Mark, Norman. I'd be interested in hearing your views.

November 18, 2010 at 22:46 | Unregistered CommenterJoyce

Would it not be possible to have the letters published in other publications that are a little less censored, with the added statement that the Irish Examiner refused to publish the letters because the editor did not approve of smoking?

At least this way others would get to know of the censorship by the editor of this publication and it may also prove to be the bit that other publications choose to publish it for.

Just a thought.

November 19, 2010 at 18:50 | Unregistered CommenterLyn

Joyce,

A cynic might suggest that Tobacco companies are forbidden to advertise and Big Pharma advertises everywhere. The cynic might also point out the the Examiner holding group, posted a loss last week of €3 million for the year. But maybe, that's all a coincidence.

Lyn,

The Irish Times has already printed a letter from the F.E. and other letters sent to the Independent, have as yet, not been printed. We will find out as time goes on what editorial policies prevail, but each of the three National papers have printed letters of protest from individual smokers in the past, though at a ratio of 10:1 compared to letters favourable to the ban and it's fallout.

November 20, 2010 at 13:32 | Unregistered CommenterJohn Mallon

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