The annual report of the Press Ombudsman has shown that in 2016 the office received 261 complaints, down from 278 the previous year.

The report, which was published today, said that of the 23 decisions made by the Press Ombudsman in 2016, nine complaints were upheld, nine were not upheld, in three cases sufficient action was taken by the publication and in two there was insufficient evidence to make a decision.

A number of complaints were considered outside the remit of the office, including those taken by an unauthorised third party and in three cases, relating to user generated content, posted online by readers, usually at the bottom of articles.

Among the complaints upheld were six relating to information or comment about a child under the age of 16.

In his opening remarks, chairman of the Press Council of Ireland, Sean Donlon said the press in Ireland continues to provide  a generally reliable news service.

He said the number of complainants who ignore the machinery of the Ombudsman and the Council in favour of going to court is a matter of concern, as is the threat of legal action by those whose financial resources are greater than those of the press.

Mr Donlon also said a major concern for the traditional press is the growth of social media which is subject to no regulation.

He said such sites can and do carry offensive, inaccurate and inappropriate content, such as the posting of a video of a young woman who was clearly in distress and later took her own life.

He said there has to be a move in Ireland and elsewhere to deal with this new media.

Minister for Communications Denis Naughten welcomed the annual report and he said that we have a good robust system here and that standards are by and large complied with.

In relation to digital media he said that he, along with Minister for Justice Frances Fitzgerald and Minister for Children Katherine Zappone are looking to progress the digital safety commissioner through primary legislation.

He said it was impossible to regulate against 'fake news' as the internet is so vast, but he said it is important that if people see something, they can turn to reliable sources that are accurate, and therefore high standards of journalism must be maintained here.

Mr Naughten said he would like to see the proposed bursary for broadcast journalists extended to cover the print media to try and encourage good quality journalism and investigative journalism.