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Reporter ‘gagged’ at press conference after rugby club lifts ban

A rugby club has lifted a ban on news reporters attending its press conferences – but then refused to answer a question from one of the journalists affected.

News reporters were barred by Ulster Rugby after apparently asking too many questions about the sacking of players Paddy Jackson and Stuart Olding, who were acquitted of rape following a high-profile trial.

Ulster said the conduct of news journalists at the first press conference after the acquittal “negatively impacted” the event, and the ban was subsequently branded “unacceptable” by the National Union of Journalists’ Irish secretary, Seamus Dooley.

The ban was lifted this week, allowing journalists from organisations including the Belfast Telegraph and the Press Association to attend a press conference held yesterday, ahead of the club’s match against Swansea-based team Ospreys on Saturday.

UlsterRugby

 

But, according to the Bel Tel, those admitted were “effectively gagged” after the newspaper was told its questions on press exclusion were “not at all relevant”.

When the Bel Tel asked Ulster head coach Gibbes why Ulster Rugby had decided to re-admit news reporters yesterday, and whether it regretted the ban, he repeatedly turned to the club’s senior communications officer Richard Finlay.

Mr Finlay said the question was “not at all relevant to this weekend’s game” and that he would be “happy to speak” to the reporter afterwards.

He later declared that he would respond via email.

Ciaran O Maolain, secretary of the Belfast and District branch of the NUJ, told the Bel Tel: “[Ulster] haven’t really gone far enough to repair the damage done to relations with our profession.

“The NUJ was deeply unhappy with the allegation that news journalists were behaving ‘unprofessionally’ when they were doing their jobs legitimately, and we hope the ongoing dialogue with Ulster Rugby will result in more appropriate and respectful treatment of media representatives. We hope to get the situation resolved by the end of the month.”

In a statement issued yesterday, Ulster Rugby said: “We can confirm that all accreditation requests for today’s match briefing were facilitated, in line with tournament guidelines.”

4 comments

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  • May 17, 2018 at 10:28 am
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    Right, so news reporters asking questions about a matter of very obvious public interest “negatively impacted” on their press conference, did it? It never ceases to amaze me how sporting organisations think they can set their own news agenda, then expect the media to meekly follow.

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  • May 17, 2018 at 11:42 am
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    The way the club is behaving is pathetic. What a bunch of snowflakes and the PR shld be ashamed of himself. He shld have told the bosses they wld get awkward questions. What people like the club officials don’t get is that if they answered the questions that would probably be the end of the matter – so it is they who are shooting themselves in the foot if they get more “awkward” headlines. Snowflakes the lot of them in their attitude.

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  • May 17, 2018 at 11:44 am
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    The usual tedious nonsense from an over-sensitive club that needs to get over itself. As they say in Ulster: “Away and feel your head.”

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