Media control and ownership

Press freedom and fair comment are a cornerstone and fundamental values of our democracy. Fair comment in the public interest is a pillar of a real Republic.

Press freedom and fair comment are a cornerstone and fundamental values of our democracy. Fair comment in the public interest is a pillar of a real Republic.

I was shocked to learn of the de facto sacking from Today FM of Sam Smyth. He is one of the country’s most respected and experienced journalists and political commentators.

I note the concern expressed at this development by the NUJ’s, general secretary, Seamus Dooley but I am a bit surprised and disappointed that there has not been more significant solidarity shown by some of Sam Smyth’s broadcasting colleagues. A number of leading press commentators, pundits and presenters are notably absent from standing four-square behind Sam Smyth and their silence on this scandalous case is deafening.

I carry no torch for Sam Smyth as I am sure he is well capable of defending himself. However, the dogs on the street know why he has been let go from Today FM. It’s in relation to his reporting and commentary on the Moriarty Tribunal. He is being victimised for making fair comment in the public interest and this is utterly unacceptable in our democracy, as free speech is a core value of our democracy.

If this scenario was to unfold at the hands of a media mogul such as Rupert Murdoch, there would be many, who seem silent so now, screaming blue murder. It is outrageous that Sam Smyth should be so vindictively shafted for merely doing his job as a journalist, without fear or favour.

It is ironic that Sam Smyth’s sacking should occur in a week that the Director General of RTE, Noel Curran has made a significant keynote speech concerning the future of the national broadcaster. I am heartened that the head of RTE has identified investigative journalism as one of the six core areas on which RTE will focus.

I now call on the Leader of the Seanad, Senator Maurice Cummins to facilitate an urgent special debate with the Minister for Communications, Pat Rabbitte, so that we can hear from him and have an input into his policy proposals and the Government’s legislative plans to deal with the crucial issue of media ownership and control in this country at this critical juncture

Senator John Whelan