Ryanair fined for blocking media access to AGM

Ryanair has been fined for trying to ‘dictate who reports’ news about the company after banning the reporter from the Irish Independent and at least one international media organization from attending its annual general meeting.

The Irish Independent was informed by Ryanair and its media adviser Edelman on Wednesday that its reporter will not be able to attend the airline’s Annual General Meeting (AGM) due to take place in Swords on Thursday morning.

That newspaper was told that media access to the shareholders’ meeting and press conference was “by invitation only” and the senior journalist hired by the Irish Independent to cover the story would not be admitted. A reporter from an international publication was also blocked, while other media outlets are free to send journalists, the reporter was told.

Irish Secretary of the National Union of Journalists (NUJ) Seamus Dooley condemned the attempt to control reporting.

“Customers and shareholders expect media companies to provide coverage and the AGM is the most important event of the year.

“From a corporate governance perspective, excluding select media does not look good for a company and I think such behavior would not resonate with institutional investors and shareholders.”

Being singled out by airline management is nothing to be ashamed of, he said.

“In a way, the Irish Independent might take it as a compliment because it suggests the newspaper is doing its job.

“It’s the job of media organizations to ask tough questions, no matter how uncomfortable those questions might be,” he said.

After its initial decision not to let the Irish Independent reporter attend the event, Ryanair later said it would allow another journalist to come.

Cormac Bourke, editor-in-chief of Mediahuis Ireland, which publishes the Irish Independent, said there was no question Ryanair or anyone else could dictate the allocation of journalists.

“We would never condone a situation where a company or even a minister, politician or any other institution could choose or veto the journalists who cover it.”

“Business journalists are the eyes and ears of ordinary investors and the wider public, and the scrutiny they provide to big business is vital to a healthy economy,” he said.

In 2019, the Press Ombudsman’s office fully investigated a complaint by Ryanair related to coverage of the company and ruled in favor of the Irish Independent, he noted.

NUJ’s Seamus Dooley said: “Any attempt to dictate who will cover a story is totally unacceptable. Just as Mr. O’Leary would not allow passengers to choose their pilot, Ryanair should respect the professionalism of Mediahuis staff.”

The annual general meeting of shareholders of a public company like Ryanair is a rare opportunity for common shareholders to put questions directly to powerful executives and directors in an open forum, and the procedures of such meetings are established and protected by law.

Media coverage of statements made at a general meeting has a special legal status known as qualified privilege, similar to but less extensive than protection for what is said in court or in the Dáil.

In 2018, Ryanair sought to ban all media from its shareholders’ meeting, the first after the airline suffered labor unrest in late 2017 after a pilot shortage forced it to cancel thousands of flights. The airline’s management, led by Michael O’Leary, had particular problems with the Irish Independent’s leading, extensive coverage and exclusive coverage of the industrial dispute during the period that had prompted the airline to recognize unions.

An influential UK shareholder advisory firm, PIRC, said at the time that the proposed media ban “further weakened the company’s image in the eyes of the public”.

https://www.independent.ie/irish-news/ryanair-condemned-for-blocking-media-access-to-agm-41990004.html Ryanair fined for blocking media access to AGM

Fry Electronics Team

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