In the past month, RTE, the Irish public broadcasting network, has had to make an extensive apology and pay a large libel settlement to Catholic priest Father Kevin Reynolds following RTE’s incorrect report that Father Reynolds raped and impregnated a minor. Ireland’s ombudsman and the broadcasting authority are both investigating how the error occurred.
Another report alleging child abuse — RTE’s charges that the deceased Brother Gerard Dillon sexually abused a student — has been questioned by both the family of Brother Dillon and the Christian Brothers.
And, former Irish presidential candidate Sean Gallagher has filed a complaint with the Broadcasting Authority after RTE aired and quizzed him about accusations made in a tweet — that later turned out to be false. Gallagher claims that RTE’s airing of the tweet cost him the election.
Now, a woman named Jerrie Ann Sullivan complained to the Broadcasting Authority over its July 28, 2011 report involving her, The Journal reported. According to the Irish Times, Sullivan is “one of the two women arrested after a Corrib gas protest on March 31, 2011.” The protests were held in opposition to “Shell’s Corrib gas pipeline” off the coast of County Mayo, Ireland.
RTE reported on a videotape made after her arrest in which police officers were “joking about raping the women if they refused to give their name and address.” The tape was made inadvertently, according to the Irish Times. The videotape was made on a camcorder Sullivan had that was “confiscated” when she was arrested, but “left switched on” in the police car.
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The Irish Times cited an “interim report” into the matter that found that some of the footage from the camcorder had been “deleted, overwritten and unrecoverable.” But, while the RTE reports suggested that the deletions were to “tamper with” the taped rape conversation, according to the Broadcasting Authority’s complaint, the deleted videos were unrelated.
Sullivan’s complaint was that RTE made factual errors in reporting on the tape and the investigation into the incident. For example, she said the RTE headline of “Ombudsman says Mayo arrest tape was altered” isn’t accurate and that RTE’s report on the investigation’s “outcomes” was wrong as well.
According to The Journal, Sullivan claimed that the tapes from her arrest weren’t deleted. Further, Sullivan claimed that RTE “misinterpreted” the report on the police investigation and therefore “broadcast false information that was offensive and harmful to her, and that it damaged her credibility as well as causing offence to the wider community in Kilcommon, Erris Co Mayo.”
RTE has defended the report and its accuracy and impartiality, but according to The Journal, the Broacasting Authority accepted part of Sullivan’s complaint and found that the RTE report “caused undue distress and harm to Sullivan,” but not the Kilcommon, Erris community.
Because of the Broadcasting Authority’s findings, RTE was to air a correction on December 7, according to The Journal. RTE reportedly “accepted” the ruling of the broadcasting authority, according to Mayo News. iMediaEthics hasn’t seen any such correction on RTE’s website, but we have written to RTE to ask if it will publish the correction online. We’ll update with any response.