The takeaway: journalism, censorship and Northern Ireland

 Click here to access our YouTube channel and see all three parts of Ed Moloney’s presentation.

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Award-winning Irish journalist Ed Moloney said that a combination of government censorship and self-censorship by Irish journalists during the Troubles in Northern Ireland delayed the Peace Process and cost lives.

Moloney spoke at a New Jersey SPJ event at St. Peter’s University in Jersey City on Oct. 20 on his years of covering the Troubles in Northern Ireland and his experience as director of the oral history archive at Boston College on the Troubles.

Moloney described the combination of self-censorship and official censorship in the Irish press during the period. He  argued that fear of being labeled a terrorist or soft on terrorism warped the way journalists did their work.

In his talk, Moloney said that Irish broadcasters and newspapers led to dishonest coverage. The peace process then led to a “new era of self-censorship,” with journalists avoiding any coverage that might be seen as hindering the process. That happened even though the peace process was “a perfect candidate for robust investigative journalism.”

Dishonest reporting delayed the peace process and cost lives, Moloney argued.

“There was no one around to tell the government that they got it wrong,” he said.

In Ireland, self-censorship became so ingrained that a shop steward actually resigned in protest when the British branch of the journalists’ union wen t to the European Court of Human Rights to challenge the restrictions on coverage of the conflict in Northern Ireland imposed under Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher.

Moloney compared the situation in Ireland to that in the United States after the 9/11 terrorist attacks when many in the press were uncritical of the invasion of Iraq. He said that while the U.S. news media is larger and more diverse than that in Ireland, corporate ownership imposes its own pressures.

The talk was followed by a spirited question-and-answer session.

For a videotape of the talk on the NJ SPJ YouTube channel, click here.


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