Belfast Telegraph

Watchdog probes RTE report leak

A media watchdog has begun an inquiry into how documents from its investigations into the Fr Kevin Reynolds defamation scandal were leaked.

The Broadcasting Authority of Ireland (BAI) said it was dismayed that confidential briefing papers which severely criticised standards of journalism at RTE were released to the press.

RTE accused members of the watchdog of undermining its own regulations after a series of findings were passed on to The Irish Times before the broadcaster had a chance to answer them.

"The BAI has expressed its dismay and deep disappointment that information regarding an ongoing BAI investigation has entered the public domain," a spokeswoman said.

The watchdog also reiterated that the statutory investigation process is continuing and that RTE has until April 20 to respond to the report which was handed over last Thursday.

RTE has been under increasing turmoil over the hugely damaging Prime Time Investigates documentary which wrongly claimed Fr Reynolds raped a minor in Africa and fathered a child.

The broadcaster has seen head of news Ed Mulhall retire in the fallout as well as being hit with an undisclosed but massive libel payout ranging from 750,000 euro up to 5 million euro.

It is also facing a fine of up to 250,000 euro from the BAI for the defamation.

Findings on the affair by former BBC controller in Northern Ireland Anna Carragher are being examined by RTE chiefs before a decision is made on whether to respond with submissions, seek an appeal in the High Court or an oral hearing.

Kevin Dawson, RTE's head of corporate communications, declined to comment directly on the findings but said he feared the leak may prejudice the station's response.

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