Terrible tendency to shoot the messenger

August 19th, 2018 8:00 PM

By Southern Star Team

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SIR – Politicians are often ambivalent about the media whom they need for publicity to persuade voters to vote for them or their party. They are not keen when policy flaws or U-turns are examined also.

The media is central in ensuring accountability, for example, on what happened to Garda Sgt Maurice McCabe when he raised policing problems to An Garda Siochana in 2008 and how he was allegedly targeted for years after this. The media reported the issues that needed to be investigated with a now third enquiry which will, hopefully, resolve his case this year.

RTÉ did an undercover investigation in 2013 into a few badly-run creches which led to a quick government response and more safeguards. Records found by researcher Catherine Corless on 796 babies and children buried in the grounds of a former mother and baby home in Co Galway raised the question in 2014 why did so many die and was discussed at length in the media. 

Serious mistakes do happen. A story by RTÉ turned out to be not true and RTÉ paid, it is believed, €1m compensation in 2012.

US President Donald Trump described the American media as enemies of the people and purveyors of ‘fake news’ to discredit reporting he didn’t agree with in the 2016 presidential election campaign and after his election. The recent killing of five employees at the ‘Capital Gazette’ in Maryland in the US was by a man with a grudge over an incident about him factually reported by the newspaper.

The ‘Capital Gazette’ employees marched in the July 4th Independence Day parade because what happened at their newspaper made them feel they had to be part of the parade rather than onlookers reporting it as usual. It was a public statement of resilience – and support for their dead and injured colleagues.

The International Federation of Journalists say 81 journalists were killed in 2017. 

An investigative journalist was murdered in beautiful Malta in 2017 for doing her job too well. The killing was condemned by European political leaders. 

Being a journalist can sometimes be a matter of life and death.

Mary Sullivan, Cork.

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