Ulster Rugby: Journalists' union sends petition in protest at news reporter ban
THE National Union of Journalists has written an open letter to Ulster Rugby in protest at its decision to ban news reporters from pre-match press conferences.
The club decided to ban the journalists amid the fall-out of the rugby rape trial.
Players Paddy Jackson and Stuart Olding were acquitted last month of raping a student at a house party in 2016. They have since been sacked from Ulster and Ireland.
It is believed news media were barred because too many questions were asked about Jackson and Olding's trial at the first press conference after their acquittal.
A spokesman for Ulster Rugby has said the "conduct of news journalists at a recent press conference negatively impacted our ability to deliver a meaningful event that focused on rugby content".
Rugby writers who cover Ulster matches were angered last week when the club issued a statement saying the decision to restrict media events to sports journalists was made "following consultation with regular press conference attendees".
The rugby journalists insisted they had not requested any ban on news reporters from attending the conferences.
The National Union of Journalists (NUJ) said the continued ban was an attempt to restrict press freedom.
"This attempt to stifle media coverage of the context and consequences of the recent trial is an unjustifiable interference with the freedom of the press, and with the rights of everyone to freedom of information and expression," the letter read.
"The sports journalists among our membership fully understand the wider public interest in this matter.
"We reject and condemn the attempt by Ulster Rugby to divide us by restricting access to rugby correspondents, while denying other bona fide journalists the right to ask questions and inform their readerships and audiences."
The petition was signed by 80 NUJ members. Irish News journalists, including digital editor Susan Thompson, security correspondent Allison Morris and political correspondent John Manley were among the signatories.