Eoin Carolan and Ailbhe O'Neill, Media Law in Ireland, 2nd edition, (Bloomsbury Publishing, 2019)

AuthorSusan Leahy
PositionUniversity of Limerick
[2020] Irish Judicial Studies Journal Vol 4(2)
Eoin Carolan and Ailbhe O’Neill,
Media Law in Ireland
, 2nd edition,
(Bloomsbury Publishing, 2019)
Dr Susan Leahy, University of Limerick
Legal regulation of the media has always posed difficulties, with the law seeking to strike an
appropriate balance between protecting and upholding free media expression and ensuring
that individua ls’ rights such as the right t o privacy or reputation are not unfairly encroached
upon. In recent times, the rise of ‘citizen journalism’ and the ever-increasing influence of
more informal, and difficult to regulate, social media in public discourse have made effective
legal regulation in this area even more challenging. In light of the ‘fluid nature of media law’,
the se cond edition of Media Law in Ireland is thus a welcome addition to knowledge in the
area, significant changes to the media landscape having occurred since the first edition, which
was published in 2010.
Authors, Eoin Carolan and Ailbhe O’Neill, declare at the outset that the focus of the book
is ‘ a discussion of the law a s it impacts upon the media in its more traditional sense - the
broadcasters, editors a nd journalist s who have been regarded for decades as occupying a
critically important democratic and constit utional role as the “Fourth Es tate”’.
approach is eminently sensible. The intricaci es and complexities of regulating social media
warrant a dedicated text. However, despite the focus on traditional media, the discussion and
analysi s in Media Law in Irela nd still provides ample food for thought on how traditional areas
of Irish law such as the right to privacy, defamation and even contempt of court might apply,
or indeed need reconsideration in order to regulate, newer forms of expression, often by
private individuals, on social media sites and other internet platforms.
The book opens in chapter one with an excellent exposition of theories of media freedom
of e xpression, providing a thought-provoking backdrop for t he discussion and analysis of
the current Irish law which is provided in the remainder of the book. Chapter 2 follows with
a thorough investigation of the laws protecting media freedom of expression which,
importantly, covers the relev ant jurisprudence on the Irish Constitution (Article 40. 6.1˚(i))
and the European Convention on Human Rights (Article 10). A significant message which
is clearly made by the authors in this chapter is that the entitlement to rely on the protection
of t hese provisions i s dependent upon ethica l and responsible journalisti c practices.
links to the, often blurred, distinction between what the public has an interest in knowing
and what the public may be interested to know. Only in the former instance is media freedom
of expression protected to its fullest extent and the line between that which the public have
an interest in knowing and that which the public may be interested in is often contested as
between the media and the subjects of media attention and reporting.
Having explored both the theory a nd la ws relating to freedom of expression, t he a uthors
proceed to offer a comprehensive examination of the areas of law one would insti nctively
associate with the media regulation, t hat is, the right to privacy (chapter 7 ), censorship
(chapter 3), defamation (chapter 6) and media access to and reporting on the courts (chapter
5). All of these topics are meticulously explained and areas for improvement of the prevailing
Eoin Carolan and A ilbhe O’Neill, Media Law in Irel and, 2nd ed ition, (Dublin: Bloomsbu ry Publishing ,
2019), v .
Ibid, vi.
Ibid, pp 33-34 and pp 51-60.

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