Publish or be damned: a party’s (very public) swipe at the Irish News

A brief ‘ICYMI’: an image appeared on Twitter at the end of last week criticising the Irish News over would-be coverage of Palestine the newspaper “chose to ignore”.

Posted in the main Sinn Féin account on Thursday 8th, the image was published as a direct Twitter reply to a story the Irish News ran the same day featuring Palestinians voicing concerns over Sinn Féin meetings with Israel’s Likud party.


The public broadside throws up some interesting points about the relationship between a political party and the media. With press releases sent to a title on a ‘for consideration’ basis, for that is why the editor’s name is above the shop door, it is an unusual and very public look at an instance where a party apparently expects their releases to be carried…or will publicly ask the reason why.

At least some of the items listed in the Sinn Féin image could be described as press release-type political PR. One of the skills we want from any newspaper worthy of our time and money involves the ability to freely make their own decisions on the difference between a press release and a story.

We’ve obviously seen political pressure on newspapers – perhaps more often played out in the world of legal letters or diplomacy between a press office and a newspaper’s brass – of a different type before.

The open sight of pressure being applied when a party’s point of view isn’t carried to its liking (or when the party may be frustrated after a difficult spell in the headlines) will be uncomfortable for some but represent simple accountability for others.

Publish or be (very publicly) damned: a sign of people power holding the media to account, thanks to social media, or crossing a line in the co-dependent relationship between a party and the free press?

Conor Johnston – @CJohnstonNI – writes about subjects including culture (especially film/ cinemas), identity and media. He also blogs at

  • steve white

    SF isn’t upset about these press releases stories not being picked up its about the Irish News running a story them meeting Likud, and the comments they carried not reflecting their amount of activity in support of Palestine, you are taking things bit too literally. You are trying to make a larger point but by ignoring the actual story you are just failing.

  • There also this: “No-one from Sinn Féin was available to respond to Mr Eid’s remarks.”

    Not every story is balanced out 50/50 (or anywhere close), something every party (including SF) will benefit from at different times when it is ‘their’ story successfully pitched and being published.

    The story references SF in Palestine. I’d be surprised if many Irish News readers need a list of detail to know SF have worked extensively there.

  • AntrimGael

    Did Sinn Fein meet Likud? YES. Are the Palestinians happy at this? NO. That IS a story that the media should be reporting. What are the Shinners yapping about? This is just another ‘principle’ that they have sold out on and they don’t like it when confronted with the truth and facts.

  • mickfealty

    Sorry Steve, but I disagree. The Irish News may have some things wrong, but (to a degree) they are entitled to assert that right in the pursuit of an inconvenient truth.

    Besides, on the main particulars, they appear to be correct. Here’s Jay Rosen on a related point of principle (

    Accountability journalism blows “balance” out of the water. Intellectual honesty is far more important than a ritualized objectivity. Recover your voice and people will have reason to listen. But journalists must listen also, and stand ready to correct.

    We have a major reporting problem right across the west. Journalists get scared that if they tell the truth on one thing they may be denied access on another. However you choose to dress it up, it’s a corruption.

    No society should acquiesce in the eating of easily bought ‘succulent lamb’…

  • steve white

    what is it that the Irish News may have wrong?
    so you saying its not about press release its about incovenient truth but C Johnston said this was all about SF’s press releases.

  • steve white

    was it principal of there’s not to meet Likud?

  • mickfealty

    He’s saying that this is an established government party telling an independent newspaper how they should report the news.

    By established, that means nine years in the job.

  • steve white

    pretty sure I read a post about how he though SF expected the IrishNews to repeat every press release they put out.

  • mickfealty

    If that’s all you saw, that’s all you saw. But you may be missing something much bigger. Rosen also notes:

    Trying to protect yourself against criticism, against what people “can say…” is perhaps understandable — Gaye Tuchman understood it exceptionally well in 1972 ( — but that does not make it legitimate.

    A different approach would be to accept with equanimity: Yes, as journalists charged with reporting things that are complex and still in motion we are uniquely vulnerable to criticism. Bring it on! Protection will come from being specialists in verification who are allergic to any party line.

    I have zero objection to SF talking to Likud, but in this case there’s a good reason “why the editor’s name is above the shop door”. Pluralism demands that people be allowed to dissent from the authorised version of politics and/or history.

    Doesn’t take too much to read that much between the lines…

  • notimetoshine

    When SF hold a foreign policy role their ramblings about this and that internationally will carry more weight. But it is ridiculous for a party in one of the most parochial of political systems to go on and on about something that has no relevance to their mandates here.

    It’s a nice side show alright, good press for their base and a nice distraction from the staid and sclerotic politics they are involved in NI.

  • Again – a story doesn’t have to be balanced out every time when it is about someone else with the same quantity of detail. This often works in Sinn Feins favour: for example, when Sinn Fein are talking about loyalists in the A’town News, you wouldn’t expect Sinn Fein to complain that the story didn’t take enough time to spell out the loyalist case and justification for the loyalist view.

    With the media that is, in short, just how it goes.

    Unless you think every single story – including times a SF press release is printed with a free ride – should have a lengthy counter-case from someone else.

  • Jollyraj

    Why are Sinn Fein trying to influence what the media should be allowed to print about them anyway?

  • chrisjones2

    So the control freaks in Connolly House were shocked that an independent newspaper refused to regurgitate the rubbish they endlessly pump out? Now that is a surprise.

  • Declan Doyle

    The corruption lies in the heart of the media these days more than ever. Shock dj style reporting with deliberate misinformation misrepresentation and disengenuous commentary are now all standard fare.

    The connectivity between the state the media and the super rich is clear, forcing potentially decent journalists to play the game or have no future in the industry. The fear they experience has nothing g to do with truth, in fact it’s the opposite. It they don’t lie cleverly enough they get bitten.

    Most established journalist today are far more interested in becoming celebrities and if they don’t get what they want, their mediabot buddies will take a sledgehammer out on their behalf.

  • Jollyraj

    “It they (journalists) don’t lie cleverly enough they get bitten.”

    Indeed. In this case it’s Sinn Fein doing the biting. Good point, Declan.

  • Declan Doyle

    No of course not but journalism should at least give context. And let’s face it, journalism has now become part of the political ‘game’. An editor decides to be anti someone and thereafter the pages are full with stories that discredit the party and it’s members (or in the case of INM actively try to dehumanise them regardless of the consequences to the individuals).

    It’s somewhat understandable in some respects. We have no way of knowing what level of corruption exists between the established political cartel and the media. But SF in government will most likely win access to such info. Hence FF’s panic at the idea of SF in government.

  • Declan Doyle

    It is very relevant to politics here. The sort of person who votes SF in Ireland, is the sort of person who supports equality everywhere not just around the dreary steeples. Could anybody imagine a Unionist Politician being called on to help resolve a crises elsewhere? Not in a million. But SF, and in fairness other similar parties worldwide are asked regularly to share their skills, experiences and wisdom in such contexts. So it is very important for Shinners to know that the party’s commitment to justice and equality spreads long beyond these shores.

  • notimetoshine

    OK I can understand that, though if I were coming from a conflict zone abroad I think it would be more helpful to speak to those who dealt with the fallout of the actions of the likes of SF than the perpetrators themselves. I’m thinking the paramedics, social and youth workers, teachers, nurses and doctors who kept this place running while SF were busy with their ‘conflict’.

    On another point, I don’t see what skills and experience SF actually have that are transferrable considering the shocking failure of their years in government along with the DUP, to implement policy and make this a better place to live.

  • Declan Doyle

    Those in conflict zones who need advice and assistance on the medical or social consequences have resources such as the UN or Red Cross to help guide them.

    SF’s role is similar to that of ANC members or other freedom fighter groups who can explain how their experiences and expertize helped bring an end to conflict.

  • notimetoshine

    I was referring more broadly to civic society, something that never has gotten anything close to the recognition it deserves for keeping things ticking over in Pr Etty horrendous circumstances. I’d say they would be true fountains of knowledge in dealing with murder and mayhem. Of course those keeping things running would tend to be moderates, and as we hold up the extremes in this place why would we bother.

    I would question the ANC comparison though, no one in SF would have anything like the stature Mandela had inside or outside SA. I’m pretty sure the nationalist voice for peace would be Hume.

  • Declan Doyle

    It really depends on interpretation. We are fast approaching a time when historians will have the final say. As for Mandela, we was a man a part from the rest, a man vilified and betrayed by the UK and a man who included Gerry Adams as one of his personal friends.

  • Declan Doyle

    I met a royal, had a beer with them, even played a game of pool. Am I now not a republican anymore?

  • Jollyraj

    Every terrorist thinks he’s a freedom fighter.

  • Gopher

    Historians have had their final say. South Africa with The Suez Canal inoperable for most of the Cold War was of massive strategic importance. When the Cold War ended and Egypt was in the USA’s and West’s sphere of influence Apartheid was ended by pressure from the West. With his ally the USSR gone Mandela sensibly could read the runes and did a “Jan Smuts” and thus could be supported by governments around the world. If he was not prepared to do that I’m sure some other candidate would have been found. The end result would be the same the end of Aparthied.

  • Belfast Barman(ager)

    “The sort of person who votes SF in Ireland, is the sort of person who supports equality everywhere not just around the dreary steeples.”
    – could you justify that?

  • Belfast Barman(ager)


  • Declan Doyle

    Justify? Or do u mean verify?

  • mickfealty

    I could go and find out why that post was removed, but I can assure you its removal had nothing to do with me.

    Now, apart from breaching the core ad hominem rule of the site, was there an actual point you wanted to make at this stage of the conversation? If not, you might have the courtesy to leave the space to those who have?

  • mickfealty

    If you are going to bandy terms like corruption without saying what you mean, you might as well not use it Declan.

  • Declan Doyle

    I think it’s pretty clear Mick.

  • mickfealty

    When you cast it in such vague terms you are bottling making a clear and cogent argument, and so adding to the total of an obfuscating calumny which degrades our ability to see real corruption sneaking around in the background/undergrowth.

    I’ve written about it before:

  • Belfast Barman(ager)

    Justify that statement. I’m not asking you to verify the statement, I can see that it’s a statement, it needs no verification.
    Explain how you feel that statement is accurate.

  • Thomas Barber

    Apologies Mick if your not the man who babysits his own blogs –

    And my point was all journalists have their own agenda’s depending on which side of the fence they sit on just like lots of politicians have their own agenda’s at heart yet they claim its all for the benefit of the joe public. Prominent members of the Likud party including its then leader were accused of corruption for their roles in the acquisition of shares by Cerberus in the Israeli Leumi Bank

    Who’s to say Sinn Fein were not meeting the Likud party for reasons connected to the Cerberus affair and how the then government handled the affair.

  • Declan Doyle

    Probably because SF have stood on that platform above all else for nigh on twenty years now and grown their voter Base from a handful to almost half a million.

    online media where the party’s efforts on behalf of Palestine, Human Rights, marriage equality, Syrian migration crises, the basque conflict, South Africa etc etc are followed and supported by tens of thousands of people at home and abroad.

    Anecdotally and personally. I and practically every Shinner I know; be they activist or just a voter, are at one in support of SF’s equality agenda at home and abroad and expect the party to maintain that commitment far and beyond the dreary steeples.

  • mickfealty

    That’s just a fast and easy way to broadcast crud (of which, you may have noticed, the internet is fully possessed of a quorum). The better question to ask, whose to say they did? If the answer is no one, then you are better keeping your homemade calumnies to yourself.

  • Thomas Barber
  • Dixie Elliott

    In the old days they’d just have sent somebody to have a word.