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 ...
Irish Examiner promotes censorship, reports award-winning Irish blogger:
I always thought freedom of speech meant that anything was accepted provided it was not libellous, was accurate and was relevant. I have views that a lot of people would find repugnant, and I not only defend my right to air those views but also defend the right of people to oppose them.
The Examiner is a national newspaper, not a parochial rag. It has a duty to perform and part of that duty is to allow free speech without any bias from the editor. Yet here we have an editor censoring views purely because he disagrees with them.
I would love to know if the Examiner is going to refuse advertising from the drinks trade. Is there to be no mention of cars in the small ads? Either the editor should wholly endorse the Nanny State or he should back off.
See also: Free speech - not where tobacco is concerned (Smoke Screens)