Report on the Concentration of Media Ownership; Media ownership report launch, from left: Barrister Caoilfhionn Gallagher, Jonathan Price, KRW Law, Gavin Booth, Sinn Féin MEP Lynn Boylan, in Cliff Townhouse in Dublin; Denis O’Brien
Further to the Report on the Concentration of Media Ownership in Ireland, commissioned by Lynn Boylan, Sinn Féin MEP on behalf on the European United Left/Northern Green Left (GUE/NGL) group of the European Parliament
A statement has been issued this afternoon by James Morrissey, on behalf of Denis O’Brien, in response to the report.
The Report on the Concentration of Media Ownership in Ireland makes for very interesting reading.
At the outset it is worth noting that it is self-described as “An Independent Study Commissioned by Lynn Boylan MEP on behalf of the European United Left/Nordic Green Left (GUE/NGL) Group of the European Parliament.”
An “independent study” commissioned by a leading member of Sinn Fein? Hardly.
“The two most important controlling entities in the Irish media landscape are the national State broadcaster, RTE, and an individual businessman, Denis O’Brien” this Report states.
Yet there is no focus on RTE in the context of:
– The largest media entity in Ireland
– The only entity involved in TV, radio and print
– Revenues subsidised by licence fees amounting to €178.9 million
But then this ‘independent study’ was never intended to be a report on the concentration of media ownership in Ireland.
Sinn Féin is very diligent and adept when it comes to pushing its agendas, overtly and covertly.
After a disappointing General Election, An Phoblact [sic] went on the attack:
“State broadcaster came in for severe criticism as it slashed Sinn Fein’s coverage following a poll… which showed the party gaining ground… and for two days the voices of Sinn Fein were banned from the airwaves in a bizarre episode that was reminiscent of Section 31 and state censorship.” (March 7, 2016)
And on the eve of the Budget, Sinn Fein TD, Eoin O’Broin declared:
“Budget Day is all about choices. For decades, Fine Gael and Fianna Fail, have looked after the big guy – whether that be Denis O’Brien or Apple.”
I am absolutely convinced that the contribution that Apple has made in this country is unquantifiable in financial and social terms. What about the thousands of young women and men who did not have to emigrate and who got a chance to work, live and raise families in Cork?
I have said that Apple should not be punished for its tax arrangements in Ireland. Sinn Féin’s stance on Apple has been, I believe both anti-enterprise and anti-Irish.
“Sinn Fein has been waiting with some relish for the EU verdict,” wrote Pat Leahy in The Irish Times (August 30, 2016) “and leaped into action: ’Give us back our money’ demanded MEP Matt Carthy. For good measure, Sinn Fein finance spokesman Pearse Doherty also called for a public inquiry into Apple’s tax arrangements.”
This report states that I am chairperson of Communicorp, as has various individuals including Dr. Colum Kenny, Dr. Roderick Flynn and Caoilfhionn Gallagher, legal firms Jonathan Price (Belfast) and KRW Law (London) and media organisations including The Irish Times and TV3.
It maybe [sic] a rather inconvenient truth, but I am not.
I suppose why let the facts interfere with the agenda and the messaging…
Is the media objective when it is talking and writing about itself? The media industry in Ireland is in decline. This decline has been ongoing for many years and it threatens and [sic] industry that has served this country exceptionally well, providing high levels of employment and spawned a number of writers who have deservedly achieved international acclaim.
Independent News & Media (INM) was days from forced closure back 2011.
Over €2 billion in shareholder value had been lost and the shares had collapsed from €27.30 to 41 cents as a previous board had racked up unsustainable levels of debt. I became am [sic] a substantial minority shareholder in INM (I am not on the board).
I am the owner of Communicorp which like RTÉ, TV3, The Irish Examiner and The Sunday Business Post operates in a very challenging environment. I understand The Irish Times is currently considering various funding options.
I believe that some media companies will not survive this decade without radical structuring including substantial funding.
I was surprised, for example, that RTÉ (and others) did not seek any comment from me on the ‘Report on the Concentration of Media Ownership in Ireland’ in the interests of balance and objectivity.
But maybe the powers that be in Montrose felt that they had been given a ‘free pass’ in the report that they chose just to quote from it?
I do not believe the Irish media is objective in relation to matters relating to itself. The prime reason is survival. Every media executive and journalist knows that the future of traditional media is bleak. It makes one entity undermining another easier to justify.
Sinn Féin/IRA certainly got the report they paid for. The cost of this report won’t have have bothered them too much.
They collected €12 million over 20 years in the US (Irish Times, March 7, 2015). The IRA is reported to have €400 million in global assets (Irish Times, August 29, 2015).
Brian Feeney, author, has suggested that a way should be found to stop “Sinn Féin people saying the IRA has gone away when self-evidently it hasn’t.”
The report references the words ‘chilling effect’ and the law in the same sentence. I bow to Sinn Fein’s superior knowledge on these topics.
Maybe instead of commissioning reports Sinn Féin would commit just some of its vast resources and support an ailing industry – become a fully-fledged broadcaster and publisher and create some jobs for a change?
The cover of the Report on the Concentration of Media Ownership in Ireland and Denis O’Brien
Sinn Féin MEP Lynn Boylan has published a Report on the Concentration of Media Ownership in Ireland, which she commissioned on behalf of the European United Left/Nordic Green Left group of the European Parliament.
It was written by lawyers in Belfast and London.
Ms Boylan’s report follows a report in March – about media plurality and ownership in Ireland by the Centre for Pluralism and Media Freedom, led by Dr Roderick Flynn of Dublin City University.
From the report:
Ireland has one of the most concentrated media markets of any democracy. Accumulation of what has been described as “communicative power” within the news markets is at endemic levels, and this, combined with the dominance of one private individual media owner in the State, creates what the Media Reform Coalition has described as “conditions in which wealthy individuals and organisations can amass huge political and economic power and distort the media landscape to suit their interests and personal views”.
The two most important controlling entities in the Irish media landscape are the national State broadcaster, RTÉ, and an individual businessman, Denis O’Brien…
…First, Mr. O’Brien has initiated a large number of sets of proceedings since 2010, including 12 cases against media organisations in relation to their coverage of his business affairs. Analysis stretching back almost two decades, to 1998, suggests that Mr. O’Brien has regularly made threats of legal action, and instituted legal proceedings, against journalists and media organisations.
Any wealthy individual bringing such a large number of claims seeking to restrict press coverage of their business dealings would raise concerns regarding freedom of expression and the potential for such litigious profligacy to have a ‘chilling effect’ on newsgathering and reporting in the public interest. However, when the wealthy individual in question is also the “largest owner of private media in the State,” those concerns and risks are substantially increased.
…The Report’s authors are aware of suggestions that there are legal bars to any such action being taken, but we reject any suggestion that it is not legally permissible to address the status quo and that tackling the current concentration of media ownership is impossible given the importance of property rights in the Irish Constitution and/ or the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR).
On the contrary, our conclusion is that there is, in principle, no such legal bar. A retrospective mechanism could indeed be permissible under the Irish Constitution, EU law, and the ECHR.
…The devil is very much in the detail, and these are difficult issues. What is now needed is a careful review of the detail, and, accordingly, the Report recommends that the Government establish a cross-disciplinary Commission of Inquiry.
Human Rights Watch released a report today in relation to the deportations that have taken place from Greece to Turkey, as part of the EU/Turkey deal – of which Ireland has contributed €22million.
The report paid particular attention to Chios island where the UN claimed 13 people – 11 people from Afghanistan, and two people from the Democratic Republic of Congo – were wrongly deported on April 4.
The report states:
In visits to the VIAL detention center on Chios on April 7 and 8, Human Rights Watch spoke with 12 friends and one relative of 19 Afghans who were deported from Chios on April 4.
Based on those interviews and text messages exchanged between those interviewed and the deportees, Human Rights Watch documented an array of irregularities and violations.
The authorities did not inform people that they were going to be deported, did not tell them where they were being taken, and did not allow some of them to take their personal possessions.
According to the UN Refugee Agency, thirteen of those deported from Chios had expressed a desire to seek asylum in Greece, and that number could be higher,
The Greek authorities appear to have hurried the forced returns from Chios, and the 136 other deportations that day from the nearby island of Lesbos, to meet a publicized deadline for the start of returns under the ill-conceived EU-Turkey deal that went into effect on March 20, 2016.
That deal allows the return of asylum seekers to Turkey on the presumption that Turkey is safe for asylum seekers and refugees.
…The deportations from Chios began around midday on April 3, when Greek police at the VIAL detention facility took dozens of people to the main building [Tabakika] where police and Frontex register new arrivals, and where the Greek asylum service is located.
The authorities separated the 66 people they had identified for return, witnesses said. The 12 friends and one relative of the 19 deportees, who did not want their names published, told Human Rights Watch that the police had called people on the false pretext that they were to be registered, including for asylum.
“Salim,” a 24-year-old man from Afghanistan, said the police took three of his Afghan friends, Ilias Haqjo, Mohammad, and Reza (full names unknown), all between 20 and 25 years old, without their possessions.
“They came here and told them they have to go to register,” he said. “They left happy and when they came out the police were waiting for them…. If the guys knew they were going to be deported, they would have taken their bags, their papers, their money.”
…On the other side, in Dikili, Turkey, the authorities hung blue tarps on the fence around the registration tents to block journalists and human rights monitors from contacting the deportees. The police commander at the area denied a Human Rights Watch request to access the site.
The deportees were then loaded onto buses and driven away. Police at the site told Human Rights Watch that they were headed to Kirklareli, near Edirne, and the media subsequently reported that the people deported from Greece were being held at the Pehlivankoy removal center in that town.
The deportees on the buses in Turkey, however, seemed not to know where exactly they were going. “Now we’re in the bus, they’re taking us to a camp,” Mohsen Ahmadi wrote his friend “Amir” around 3 p.m. “Why there?” “Amir” asked. “I don’t know, the camp is near Istanbul,” Ahmadi replied.
“When you arrive, let us know,” “Amir” wrote. “OK,” Ahmadi wrote back at 8:28 p.m., but that was the last message that “Amir” received.
…Human Rights Watch collected the phone numbers of four of the people who were deported from Chios on April 4. As of April 18, none of them had replied to messages on Viber, the application they had been using. When called, three of the phones appeared to be shut off and one of the numbers was not working.
The legal basis of confiscating phones from people being deported, if any, remains unclear. Given that asylum seekers and migrants rely on their phones to stay informed and to keep in touch with family, such measures appear unnecessary and cruel, as well as a violation of the individuals’ personal property rights, Human Rights Watch said.
The amount of powdered baby milk each infant in Vial allegedly gets every day
Further to the picture (above) circulating on social media last Thursday…
Patrick Kingsley, of The Guardian, reports:
Babies detained in Greece under the terms of the EU-Turkey migration deal are being denied access to adequate supplies of milk formula, refugees and aid workers have alleged.
Approximately 25 babies under the age of six months, whose mothers are unable to breastfeed, are being given roughly 100ml of milk formula just once a day on the island of Chios, according to photographs sent by detained refugees and testimonies provided by phone.
… A 35-year-old Afghan construction manager, detained in a detention centre on Chios since 21 March, said he had been forced to mix water with bread to stop his five-month-old daughter going hungry.
The man, who said he worked as a contractor for the British army in Afghanistan but asked not to named for fear of victimisation, said: “They are only giving us half a cup of milk for all 24 hours – but that’s not enough. There’s no more milk for lunch or dinner or during the night. This is a big problem. There are maybe 24 or 25 babies under six months.”
The Norwegian Refugee Council, which maintains a presence on Chios, confirmed the claim and said the number of infant children may even be higher. “It’s clear that baby milk [formula] is not being routinely distributed,” said Dan Tyler, the NRC’s protection and advocacy officer on Chios. “I did a series of meetings with refugees last week, and mothers brought up [the issue of] baby milk all the time.
You’ll recall how a working group set up by the Department of Justice last August to look at reforming the direct provision system – and from which the CEO of the Irish Refugee Council Sue Conlan resigned in March – is due to deliver its report at the end of this month.
This morning, Kitty Holland, in the Irish Times, reports:
“The report will recommend these [asylees’ welfare payments] be increased to €38.74 per week for adults and €29.80 for children. This would bring the rates into line with supplementary welfare allowance rates when the fact asylum seekers in direct provision are provided with food and accommodation is taken into account.”
Readers may recall in September 2014, the RTÉ Radio One journalist, Brian O’Connell, did a series of interviews with female asylum seekers – some teenagers – who talked about engaging in prostitution in order to supplement their weekly stipend of €19.10/€9.60 a week.
After the interviews Justice Minister Frances Fitzgerald said she’d be seeking a report on this specific matter stating: ‘I will certainly be asking for a report and I would ask that anyone with information to make it available to the Gardaí.’
Was that specific report ever carried out? Or was it subsumed into this working group report?”
Ombudsman Emily O’Reilly has released a report into her investigation of a complaint made by a female asylum seeking mother in relation to the non-payment of supplementary welfare allowance by the HSE.
The story goes back to 2007 when Ms Kileni (not her real name) came to Ireland with her two daughters as asylum seekers, after her husband was murdered in South Africa.
They were placed in Direct Provision accommodation in Mayo. Their Direct Provision accommodation was a four-bedroomed house.
Ms Kileni and her daughters shared one bedroom while three other families shared the three other bedrooms.
In August 2008, they left the accommodation to live with a friend in Dublin because the medical services she needed for her daughter, whose mental health was deteriorating, were only available in Dublin.
The 15-year-old girl had attempted suicide at the centre and was subsequently hospitalised. After she was discharged, she was placed in foster care on a voluntary basis.
In November 2008, Ms Kileni applied for Supplementary Welfare Allowance but her application was refused. (SWA consists of a basic payment and/or a supplement to cover certain expenses a person may not be able to meet. The main purpose of the allowance is to guarantee a standard basic minimum income).
Ms Kileni appealed the decision to the HSE, but was again refused.
She then appealed to the Social Welfare Appeals Office, which prompted an oral hearing in June 2009.
In December 2009, the Appeals Officer allowed Ms Kileni’s appeal and the officer issued a statement on her decision which gave details of the exceptional medical and social circumstances of the case.
But, the relevant Superintendent Community Welfare Officer (who would have paid out the supplementary welfare allowance) queried the outcome.
Despite the responses from the Appeals Officer confirming her decision, and despite the fact Ms Kileni was not living in Direct Provision accommodation, the welfare officer would only pay Ms Kileni the rate of €19.10 per week for herself and €9.60 per week for the daughter then living with her – rates payable to asylum seekers living in Direct Provision.
Ms Kileni, tried to resolve the matter with the HSE before taking her complaint to the Ombudsman but was unsuccessful.
Ms O’Reilly added:
“An obvious consequence was extreme impoverishment for both Ms Kileni and her eldest daughter (a Leaving Certificate student at the time). Another, far-reaching consequence was that the failure to provide the family with an income meant it was not possible for Ms. Kileni’s daughter, who was in foster care, to be re-united with her family.
This was an outcome which the HSE social workers involved in the girl’s care had anticipated as a result of the Appeals Officer’s decision to award the full-rate SWA to Ms Kileni. The failure to implement the Appeals Officer’s decision, and the emotional and financial instability for the family which resulted from that failure, upset these plans.”
The HSE accepted Ms O’Reilly’s findings and agreed to pay the woman arrears of €11,882, and a “time and trouble” payment of €3,000.
These arrears were paid to Ms Kileni in January 2011
– 26 months after her SWA application,
– 13 months after the success of her appeal, and
– nine months after she had complained to the Ombudsman.