You can make a complaint to the Office of the Press Ombudsman about any article that personally affects you and has been published within the last three months in a newspaper or magazine that is a member publication of the Press Council of Ireland, if you think that it breaches the Code of Practice for Newspapers and Magazines. Member publications include:
- All daily and Sunday newspapers
- The Irish edition of UK newspapers
- The majority of Regional newspapers, and
- The majority of Irish-published Magazines
You can also complain about the behaviour of a journalist if you feel that a journalist's behaviour involves a breach of the Code of Practice.
The procedures outlined below have been devised in the interests of fairness to all sides, and of achieving a speedy resolution to complaints. If there is anything about them that is not clear, please do not hesitate to contact us by telephone (01-648 9130) or by email firstname.lastname@example.org.
There is no charge for these services.
Stage 1: Requirements for submitting a complaint to the Press Ombudsman
The complainant must, in the opinion of the Press Ombudsman, be able to show that s/he is personally affected by the article or journalistic behaviour concerned, and that the subject matter of the complaint is not the subject matter of any court proceedings in Ireland.
It is also essential that the complaint:
- refers to an article published by a member publication of the Press Council of Ireland, published within the last three months, if the complaint relates to an article;
- refers to the behaviour of a journalist that took place within the last three months if the complaint relates to journalistic behaviour;
- is signed by the complainant or by someone nominated to act on their behalf;
- is, in the opinion of the Press Ombudsman, supported by sufficient evidence of a possible breach of the Code of Practice and is neither vexatious nor insignificant;
- clearly indicates which Principle or Principles of the Code of Practice the complainant feels may have been breached, and why;
- is accompanied by a dated cutting of any article concerned, or a scanned version which clearly shows the date of publication; and
- is accompanied by copies of any correspondence between the complainant and the editor of the publication;
If the complainant is not named in the article, but has satisfied the Press Ombudsman that he or she is personally affected by it, and if the article names another individual or individuals who may, in the opinion of the Press Ombudsman, also be personally affected by the article, the Press Ombudsman will require the written permission of any such individual or individuals before he can investigate the complaint.
There is no appeal against this or any other administrative decision made by the Press Ombudsman in relation to the requirements of the complaints procedures of his Office.
Stage 2: Lodging a Formal Complaint with the Editor
The complainant is first required to complain in writing directly to the editor of the publication concerned. They should mark their letter to the editor "Confidential - not for publication".
Stage 3: Lodging a formal complaint with the Press Ombudsman
If, within two weeks from the date of the letter of complaint to the editor, the complainant has not received a reply, or has received an unsatisfactory reply, s/he can then complain in writing to the Press Ombudsman.
All information about the complaint must be submitted to the Office of the Press Ombudsman within three months of publication of the article under complaint, or of the journalistic behaviour taking place.
In the case of an article published on the internet, the date of publication is the date upon which the article was first uploaded to the web.
All information in relation to a complaint must remain confidential until all aspects of the complaints and appeals process are completed.
Stage 4: Investigation by the Office of the Press Ombudsman
If the Press Ombudsman decides that a complaint is one that is appropriate for his Office to deal with, his Office will, in the first instance, seek to have the complaint resolved speedily by a process of conciliation. This will involve his Case Officer acting as a facilitator between the complainant and the editor to see whether a mutually satisfactory resolution of the complaint can be achieved.
This may also involve mediation between the parties in circumstances in which it is felt that mediation offers a reasonable prospect of resolving the complaint.
If mediation is considered appropriate, the Case Officer will, with the consent of both parties, facilitate a face-to-face meeting between the complainant and a representative of the publication concerned, in which both parties can together explore the possibility of a mutually satisfactory outcome.
In the event that a complaint cannot be resolved through the conciliation process or through mediation, the complaint will be referred to the Press Ombudsman for a decision.
Complainants will be kept up to date at all stages about the progress of their complaints.
Stage 5: Decision of the Press Ombudsman
The Press Ombudsman will consider all the material on file and, at that stage, he may exercise his option of referring the complaint to the Press Council of Ireland for decision.
If he does not refer the complaint to the Press Council, the Press Ombudsman will make a substantive decision on the complaint after making any further enquiries he believes to be necessary, and after considering all of the material on file. This decision will be sent to the complainant and to the publication concerned.
The Press Ombudsman's decision may take any one or more of the following forms:
- He can decide to uphold the complaint under the Code of Practice.
- He can decide not to uphold the complaint.
- He can decide that the publication concerned has offered to take, or has taken, action which, in his opinion, is or was sufficient to resolve the complaint.
- He can decide that there is insufficient evidence available to him to make a decision on the complaint.
The procedures for making of decisions by the Press Ombudsman do not provide for oral hearings.
If any part of the complaint is upheld, the publication concerned will have to publish that part of the Press Ombudsman's decision in accordance with the provisions of the Press Council's and Press Ombudsman's Publication Guidelines.
Any party to a complaint may appeal a substantive decision of the Press Ombudsman to the Press Council of Ireland, provided that such an appeal is lodged in writing with the Chairman of the Press Council within two weeks of the date of the decision.
An appeal can be made to the Press Council on one or more of the following grounds:
- that there has been an error in procedure;
- that significant new information is available that could not have been or was not made available to the Press Ombudsman before he made his decision;
- that there has been an error in the Press Ombudsman's application of the Code of Practice.
Appellants should state the grounds for their appeal, and should support it by any evidence they believe to be appropriate and relevant. Mere disagreement with the Press Ombudsman's decision is not grounds for appeal.
The procedures for consideration of appeals by the Press Council against decisions of the Press Ombudsman do not provide for oral hearings. Copies of appeals are furnished to the other party for their observations, and any such observations will be included in the Council's consideration of the appeal.
There is no appeal against a decision of the Press Council on an appeal against a substantive decision by the Press Ombudsman, or against its decision on a complaint that has been referred directly to the Press Council by the Press Ombudsman.
Publication of Decisions
All decisions of the Press Ombudsman upholding a complaint and, on appeal, the Press Council, must be published in accordance with the provisions of the Press Council's and Press Ombudsman's Publication Guidelines.
All decisions of the Press Ombudsman and, on appeal, of the Press Council, will be published on the website of the Press Ombudsman and Press Council and will be circulated to the media generally. Publication of such decisions as news items is at the discretion of the editors of any publication not involved in the complaint, subject to the general requirement that any such articles should be written and presented with fairness to all concerned in the spirit of the Code of Practice.