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RTE ordered to broadcast apology for coverage ‘harmful’ to women in Corrib Garda ‘rape’ recording case

News release -Issued by Dublin Shell to Sea - Monday, December 5th, 2011

-- RTE falsely reported that recording had been ‘tampered with’ -- 
-- Apology to air on Wed 7 December prior to evening news programmes -- 

RTE has been ordered to broadcast a televised correction about its “harmful”, “inaccurate” and “unfair” coverage of the women who brought the Corrib Garda rape recording to public attention. RTE falsely reported that the recording had been “tampered with”. 

The correction, to be broadcast before the 6.01 News and Nine O’Clock News this Wednesday (December 7th), follows a complaint to the Broadcasting Authority of Ireland (BAI) by Jerrie Ann Sullivan, one of the women whose arrest led to a senior Garda and his colleagues recording themselves talking about raping the women who were in their custody. 

This is the second time in six weeks that media coverage of the incident has been found to be misleading. In October, the Press Ombudsman ruled that an article by Jim Cusack in the Sunday Independent, which attempted to undermine the same women, was “significantly misleading” (see link below). 

RTE’s correction has been ordered by the BAI, which has ruled that television news reports broadcast on July 28th 2011, were “inaccurate” and “caused undue distress and harm” to Ms Sullivan. 

RTE reported that the March 31st recording of Gardai talking about rape had been “tampered with” before being handed to the Garda Ombudsman (GSOC). In fact, this was entirely untrue. A file recorded earlier in March had been deleted from the digital camera in the presence of NUI Maynooth academic staff, in line with academic research ethics and data protection. 

The BAI ruled that: “The GSOC report does not state that the files deleted and over-written related to the arrest or to the incident investigated by them.” RTE’s coverage would “raise unfounded questions for viewers about the integrity” of Ms Sullivan, the BAI stated, and was thus “in breach of fairness, objectivity and impartiality in current affairs”, as defined in the Broadcasting Act 2009. 

(See below for more details of the BAI ruling.) 

Jerrie Ann Sullivan said: “I am relieved that at least one aspect of the misinformation put out by state bodies about this incident has now been corrected.”  

“In correspondence with me prior to the BAI decision, RTE attempted to vigourously defend their inaccurate reporting, citing Minister Alan Shatter's also misleading comments as a basis for the news. This suggests the broadcaster is too close to the Department of Justice to provide reliable news about Corrib. 

“An unhealthy closeness between the Department of Justice and Garda Ombudsman has also hampered the facts of this case from reaching the public. I am still waiting for the Garda Ombudsman to correct and clarify the selective and highly misleading interim report about this incident, and to respond to my concerns about its inaccuracies.” 

Dublin Shell to Sea spokesperson Caoimhe Kerins said: “We explained the situation regarding the digital camera to RTE’s reporter in detail by telephone on July 28th, but this was ignored in the news reports.” 

“While RTE’s coverage was blatantly false and harmful, some responsibility must also rest with the Garda Ombudsman. Its interim report was highly selective and misleading and was a clear attempt to undermine the women who brought the rape comments recording to public attention. 

“This decision by the BAI, and the recent ruling by the Press Ombudsman against the Sunday Independent, have helped to expose the way in which the Gardaí and Garda Ombudsman use spin to undermine people who dare to criticise Gardaí.” 

Jerrie Ann Sullivan also said: “RTE has been forced to admit it was wrong because, as an MA student, I had the time to write detailed letters to RTE and to the BAI, but many people in front-line communities such as those facing Shell in Erris do not have the time to challenge the State broadcaster about every inaccuracy.” 

 

The full text of the BAI decisions are available at: 

http://www.shelltosea.com/sites/default/files/images/17211_SixOneNews_Decision.pdf 

http://www.shelltosea.com/sites/default/files/images/17311_NineNews_Decision.pdf

 

Press Ombudsman ruling against Sunday Independent: 

http://irishoilandgas.wordpress.com/2011/10/25/press

 

The following are extracts from the BAI decision:  

The GSOC report does not state that the files deleted and over-written related to the arrest or to the incident investigated by them. Given this, the Committee is of the view that the findings of the GSOC report as summarised in the introduction to the news report are not supported by the GSOC report itself and the report was therefore inaccurate.

It is the Committee's view that the imprecise phraseology and the inaccuracy in the introduction to the news report would have reasonably resulted in a viewer inferring that the recording of the incident investigated by the GSOC was tampered with. This inference is not supported by the GSOC report.

The Committee was also of the view that the report would, as a result, raise unfounded questions for viewers about the integrity of the complainant such that the news report was in breach of section 48(1) of the 2009 [Broadcasting] Act (fairness, objectivity and impartiality in current affairs).

In view of this finding, the Committee was of the opinion that the news report caused undue distress and harm to the complainant in contravention of section 48(2) of the Broadcasting Act 2009 (harm & offence – Section 3.5.2 Code of Programme Standards)