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21st December 2016, 20:21:48 UTC

Reports that the Broadcasting Authority of Ireland has upheld a complaint against The Ray Darcy Show on RTE Radio One and will issue the programme with a warning are deeply concerning, said Amnesty International Ireland today. The complaint was made in response to an interview with Gaye and Gerry Edwards who appeared on the show to share their personal experience of an abortion following a fatal foetal impairment diagnosis.
“The Broadcasting Authority of Ireland has a responsibility to ensure that broadcasting serves the public interest, including people’s right to seek information. Decisions like what has been reported today do not serve that function, and are deeply unhelpful,” said Colm O’Gorman, Executive Director of Amnesty International Ireland.

An Amnesty International/Red C poll carried out in February 2016 found that there is a substantial lack of public awareness on the issue of access to abortion in Ireland. Only 14% of respondents are aware that having an abortion when the woman’s life is not in danger is a criminal offence which carries a potential 14 year prison sentence. Just 14% trust the media as a source of information on abortion. However, a large majority (62%) trust women who’ve had abortions to inform them on the issue.

“Ireland has finally begun to have a vital national conversation on the issue of abortion. As the Citizens’ Assembly deliberates on this issue, the media should seek to discuss it in a way that ensures the public get the accurate information they need. Most importantly, women with personal experience of abortion must be given an opportunity to share their stories. Women like Gaye Edwards who bravely shared her experience in order to encourage much needed law reform. Discussions such as those which took place on The Ray Darcy radio show are sorely needed. The BAI should be encouraging and supporting such discussions, not seeking to stifle them. It is time for the BAI to deliver on its mission to regulate, foster and support broadcasting in the public interest on the subject of abortion,” said Colm O’Gorman.

Last month, the government agreed to make reparations to a woman following a UN Human Rights Committee ruling that Ireland’s abortion laws had seriously violated her human rights. The UN Committee found that, in denying access to abortion in Ireland, she was subjected to cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment, discrimination, and violation of her right to privacy.

“It is beyond dispute that Ireland seriously violated the human rights of the woman at the centre of the UN Committee’s decision the programme covered. Just last month the Government confirmed it accepted the Committee’s finding. Why should a programme covering this important story have to strike a “balance” with those who would deny this woman’s experience? Inhuman and degrading treatment was one of the violations against this woman found by the UN Committee. Yet those who are happy to see women’s human rights remain violated in Ireland are to be given equal space when important stories like this are being covered. This is absurd and perverse,” said Colm O’Gorman.

The Amnesty International/Red C poll also found that 87% favour expanded access to abortion. 80% would vote to repeal the Eighth Amendment, either outright or if reasonable restrictions were put in place. Of the 5% of people personally opposed to abortion in all circumstances, half would still vote to repeal the Eighth Amendment.

“Repeated opinion polls have shown that access to abortion in Ireland is no longer a divisive issue in Ireland. Across all regions, demographics and social groups, people in Ireland want change. The media should not be forced into contriving a false sense of “balance”. Rather they should seek to reflect the levels of public support and overwhelming consensus which exists for reform of Ireland’s abortion laws.

“The Eighth Amendment must be repealed and replaced with a legal and healthcare framework that respects the rights of women and girls. The Citizens’ Assembly process and concurrent media debate is a critical opportunity for public dialogue on abortion, with a view to dispelling any myths and misrepresentations in advance of a referendum. The BAI should fulfil its public service obligation and support such a debate,” said Colm O’Gorman.

Notes to editors:
The Amnesty International/Red C Research & Marketing poll on attitudes to abortion in Ireland was conducted in February 2016. Its complete findings are available here.