'Africa is giving nothing to anyone - apart from AIDS'. A rather nasty remark, and untrue. Africa gives us many things, including most of the world's gold and diamonds, and you can't blame a country for the spread of sexually transmitted diseases. Nevertheless, I'm not sure I would say that this remark, from the Irish journalist and commentator, Kevin Myers, in the Irish Independent in 2008 should actually be censored. But be in no doubt - it cannot be said again in Ireland. And nor can anything like it.
This was one of the earliest cases taken to the Irish Press Council, the system of press regulation Alex Salmond would like to see in Scotland. It was referred to the Irish press watchdog by the Immigrant Council of Ireland, and a number of NGOs, on the grounds that it breached four of the principles of the Council's Code of Practice for journalists. 1)Accuracy 2)Fairness 3)Respect for rights and 8)Incitement to Hatred. The Council accepted that it was "gratuitously offensive", and "was likely to cause grave offence to people throughout sub-Saharan Africa" It ruled that the article "did breach Principle 8 of the Code". Though confusingly it did not conclude that it was "likely to stir up hatred".
But the matter didn't end there. After the ruling, in 2009, the Irish Times ran a headline "Press Council upholds complaint against Myers article". Mr Myers then took the Irish Times to the Press Council on the grounds that this breached Principle 1)Accuracy, 3)Fairness and 4)Respect for Rights. The Times argued that its headline was accurate and fair since it was a direct quote from the Press Council itself. But the Press Council didn't agree and said that even though this is what it had said, the Irish Times headline was misleading and it "breached Principle 1 of the Code". However, just to make things even more confusing, it only partially upheld the complaint made by Mr Myers against the Irish Times.
I'm afraid this is what happens when you put a group of lawyers,ex- judges and professors in charge of regulating the press. The PC tried to apply these very broad an subjective criteria, like offensive and fair, to a piece of journalism that was neither. But they also realised that freedom of speech does require that sometimes offensive and unfair things are said. So, they tried to have it both ways - they upheld the complaint, and didn't uphold it at the same time.
But this has had one very clear outcome: censorship.