More Libel Claims against RTE for Mission to Prey Program

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Kenyan bishop Philip Sulumeti is suing Irish public broadcaster RTE for its claims in the 2011 Prime Time Investigates “Mission to Prey” program, the Irish Independent reported.

According to the Independent’s May 16 article, he has “lodged” a lawsuit and claims he was defamed “by including his reference supporting Fr Kevin Reynolds’ character alongside statements of Fr Reynolds’ supposed guilt.”

As we have written, RTE wrongly reported in 2011 that Father Reynolds raped and impregnated a minor-aged Kenyan girl. Because of the libel, RTE has had to apologize, pay Father Reynolds a libel payout, and announce new journalism guidelines.

RTE was also fined € 200,000 by Ireland’s Broadcasting Authority and there have been at least three investigations into the public broadcaster.

Sulumeti defended Father Reynolds in a statement used in the program, saying Father Reynolds was “above suspicion” and “never been involved in any kind of abuse.”  When RTE used those comments in its “Mission to Prey” program, wrongly accusing Father Reynolds, RTE called Sulumeti’s comments “most peculiar,” the Independent reported.  The RTE report also suggested that Sulumeti paid for the alleged daughter to go to school on Father  Reynolds’ behalf.

Sulumeti is the “third cleric” to sue over the program, according to the Independent, but as we have written, he will be the fourth set of questions or claims against the program.  The family of deceased Brother Gerard Dillon challenged claims about Brother Dillon in the program, and former Archbishop Richard Burke has claimed the report libeled him as well.

RTE’s chairman and director general appeared May 23 at Ireland’s Oireachtas committee to address the “Mission to Prey” libel, the Irish Independent reported. The pair, Tom Savage and Noel Curran, defended themselves amidst calls for their resignations.  According to the Independent, Savage “came in for particular attack given that he is also a director of the Communications Clinic, a PR firm.”

Savage, however, defended himself from conflict of interest charges and said that “I believe there are 1,800 victims who aer suffering collateral damage” from the “Mission to Prey” libel.

Ireland’s Agriculture Minister, Simon Coveney, argued that moving forward, RTE’s board must “ensure we don’t get a repeat of the kind of mistakes that have caused such a damaging scandal for RTE,” RTE itself reported.

We have written to RTE seeking comment about these new claims and will update with any response.

UPDATE: 5/28/2012 7:15 PM EST: Added info about Savage, Curran and Coveney

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More Libel Claims against RTE for Mission to Prey Program

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