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To: Denis Naughten, Minister for Communications Climate Change and Natural Resources
Review & Revise the Broadcasting Authority of Ireland’s Code for Current Affairs Reporting
We want Denis Naughten to review & revise the Broadcasting Authority’s Code for Current Affairs Reporting. The Broadcasting Authority of Ireland (BAI) recently upheld a complaint against the Ray D’Arcy Show for giving space to an interview with Graham and Helen Linehan where they shared their experience of accessing abortion services. Helen Linehan terminated her much wanted pregnancy while living in the UK after receiving the tragic diagnosis of fatal foetal anomaly - a right that would have been denied her if she were living in Ireland at the time. The BAI says this interview was in breach of its Code for news and current affairs reporting. The radio show in question is here: http://www.rte.ie/radio1/ray/programmes/2015/1019/735899-ray-darcy-monday-19-october-2015/?clipid=2002996
Why is this important?
The Code’s stated purpose is to achieve fairness, impartiality and objectivity. However when it comes to discussion on Ireland’s abortion laws, it is having the effect of censoring the voices of those who have been most impacted by Ireland’s restrictive regime
The BAI specifically took issue with the Graham and Helen Linehan advocating for legislative and constitutional change that would spare other women, girls and couples the trauma of being denied access to termination of pregnancy in cases of fatal foetal anomalies, and their support for Amnesty International’s campaign on this. This was despite the Ray D’Arcy Show seeking in advance and then reading out the views of two anti-choice organisations on both the Linehans’ story and Amnesty International’s campaign. Fairness, objectivity and impartiality were thus achieved.
People must be allowed tell their true, factual personal stories without being silenced from naming and calling for the very changes that could vindicate their human rights and spare other women, girls and couples unnecessary trauma. It is in the public interest that broadcasters aren’t shackled by an interpretation of 'balance' which is so extreme as to be absurd.
Red C/Amnesty International Ireland polling recently showed that only 14% of people trust the media as a source of information when deciding their stance on abortion. Those they trust most are health professionals and women who have had abortions. The same polling found that 52% of the Irish public feel they do not have enough information about the 8th Amendment, and think the media should give better information on it.
Now that the government has promised that a Citizens’ Assembly will consider the 8th Amendment, there has never been a more critical time for the public to have information about its actual impacts on the lives of real women and their families.
It is critical that the brave voices of those whose lives have been impacted by the 8th amendment can participate in the public conversation about this issue without the fear of having to be confronted in an adversarial manner about the choices that they made in the best interests of themselves and their families, and without feeling censored by the State, through the BAI, from calling for the legal changes necessary to prevent the suffering they endured being inflicted on others.