The National Union of Journalists has criticised Tánaiste Micheál Martin’s statements about news website The Ditch, characterising the comments as “not acceptable”.
During Leaders’ Questions on Thursday, Mr Martin said he considered the website to be a “political organisation attacking Government”.
It follows the publication of articles relating to Minister of State Niall Collins’ attendance at a meeting where the sale of county council land ultimately purchased by his wife was discussed.
“This is a political organisation attacking Government and wanting to undermine confidence in Government,” Mr Martin said.
“I see this now through a totally different prism how all of this has been organised, set up by people who are very clear in their campaign against me and my party.”
NUJ Irish secretary Seamus Dooley said the comments were “an unwelcome and unedifying departure”.
“I was extremely disappointed to see Dáil privilege used by the Tánaiste to attack a news website in this way.
“It is an unwelcome and unedifying departure from normal parliamentary procedure.
“It is inevitable that there will be profound disagreements between those who exercise power and those who seek to hold them to account.
“Journalists who criticise or challenge public figures can expect criticism.
“Media organisations, across all platforms, are not above scrutiny and are capable of responding robustly to criticism.
“Journalists and publishers understand the tension that exists in a democracy between the media and government.
“A diverse, challenging media is important and in Ireland we are fortunate in having a range of media across all platforms.
“No media organisation has a monopoly on concern for transparency or accountability.
“It is not acceptable for politicians to make criticism under Dáil privilege against named individuals.
“The media operates within the constraints of extremely restrictive defamation laws.
“Politicians who wish to challenge the accuracy, efficacy or bona fides of any journalist or media organisation should do so within the same constraints and without the protection of Oireachtas privilege”.
A spokesman for The Ditch said Mr Martin had launched a “hysterical, paranoid attack” on the website rather than addressing the reporting on Mr Collins.
“Martin questioned both these outlets’ judgment, as well as all the readers who consider our stories to be in the public interest.
The spokesman said its reporting had led to resignations of senior public figures.
“These consequences explain Martin’s conspiracism in the Dáil today.”