Challenge to broadcasting ban fails: Government avoids facing European court on human rights over gagging of Sinn Fein

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The Independent Online
A LEGAL challenge to the Government's broadcasting ban on Sinn Fein, the political arm of the IRA, has been rejected by the European Commission on Human Rights.

The commission has declared inadmissible an application to take the British government to court in Strasbourg charged with breaching freedom of expression, which is safeguarded by the European Convention on Human Rights.

The decision was greeted with dismay by the National Union of Journalists, which has been backing the challenge mounted by seven broadcasters and journalists and one member of the public.

The NUJ said yesterday that it was now considering other courses of action 'to highlight the effect of the ban on the freedom to receive and impart information which is so fundamental in a democratic society'.

The broadcasting ban means that actors have to be used on radio and television to give the text of Sinn Fein's speeches.

The commission, which vets all applications to the European Court of Human Rights, has followed an earlier decision that the broadcasting ban is acceptable in the Irish Republic.

But the NUJ has pointed out that the Irish ban was removed this January by the Dublin government when it did not renew the relevant part of the Broadcasting Act.

'It was widely accepted that the crude censorship imposed by the ban could no longer be justified,' the union said.

The NUJ statement went on: 'The operation of the ban in the United Kingdom, particularly following the visit of Gerry Adams to the USA, has highlighted how it is interfering with the free movement of information within Europe and the rest of the world.'