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FAKE NEWS: Front page of Irish Examiner runs made up "poll" claiming doctors support legalising abortion

9 February 2018

 
This false story will have been seen all over Ireland.

"When zealotry replaces objectivity, the Irish people are the victims."

The front page of yesterday's Irish Examiner carried the headline "75% of doctors support 12-week access to abortion". The sub-heading read: "Poll of 400 medics shows support for liberalising abortion regime", and claimed that "three out of every four GPs and hospital consultants are in favour of allowing unrestricted access to abortion up to 12 weeks gestation."

The story was copied by the Irish Times and the Journal, and was based on "the most substantial survey of medics to date", carried out by the Irish Medical Times.

"Entirely false impression"

However, it soon emerged that no such survey had been conducted. The report in fact referred to a facebook and twitter poll, which was open to all social media users, not any kind of scientific survey of the medical community.

Dr Ruth Cullen of the Pro-Life Campaign said: "For the Irish Examiner to claim the findings were 'the most substantial survey of medics on the issue to date' creates an entirely false impression. Anybody, not just medics, were able to vote in this poll. The only criteria for voting was a Facebook or Twitter account. The flippant use of such faulty methodology doesn’t auger well for the forthcoming referendum campaign."

Following a huge backlash on social media, the Irish Times and the Journal removed the story from their websites. Susan Daly, editor of Journal.ie admitted:  "We misunderstood the methodology and have removed the article and all social relating to it."

The Irish Medical Times, the original source of the report, has also taken the story down. However, the Irish Examiner has refused to acknowledge any wrong-doing. An update to the article reads: "The Irish Examiner today fairly and accurately reported the results of a survey in the Irish Medical Times assessing the level of support among doctors for unrestricted abortion up to 12 weeks...It is not Irish Examiner policy to take down or remove stories from our website but rather to update the story as fresh information emerges. To date, no fresh information has emerged from the Irish Medical Times about their latest survey on abortion attitudes. Any questions about their methodology should be directed to the Irish Medical Times."

Collective failure of biased media

Niamh UiBhrian, of the Savethe8th Campaign said:  "It is pretty extraordinary for the editor of Ireland’s biggest online news website to admit that they did not properly check the methodology of a poll claiming to represent the views of Irish Doctors. The Irish people deserve the facts in this debate, and this morning, the Irish media has failed them utterly. These facts were ascertainable with two or three clicks of a mouse, but no due diligence was done.

"Even now, this entirely fake news story is on the front pages of an Irish Newspaper, in shops across the country. This has been a collective failure by the media.

"While we welcome the fact that the Journal and the Irish Times have corrected their error, the fact remains that a large number of Irish people will have read something entirely untrue in their morning newspaper, and may make decisions based on that. It is entirely unacceptable. Unfortunately the Irish media has taken a consistent pro-repeal line, and have been campaigning harder than anyone on that side of the debate. When zealotry replaces objectivity, the Irish people are the victims. We hope that the right lessons will be learned from this as the campaign progresses."

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