Ryanair condemned for blocking media access to AGM

Ryan Air He was found guilty of trying to “dictate who covers” company news after it banned an Irish Independent reporter and at least one international media organization from attending its annual general meeting.

The Irish Independent was informed on Wednesday by Ryanair and its media advisers Edelman that its reporter will not be allowed to attend the airline’s annual general meeting (AGM) due to take place in Swords on Thursday morning.

This newspaper was told to enter the media to the shareholder meeting and the press conference was “invitation only” and a senior journalist hired by the Irish Independent to cover the story would not be allowed in. A reporter from an international address was also banned while the reporter was told that other media addresses were free to send journalists.

Secretary of the Irish National Union of Journalists Seamus Dooley has denounced the attempt to control press reporting.

Clients and shareholders expect media organizations to provide coverage, and the annual general assembly is the most important event of the year.

“From a corporate governance perspective, it is not a good idea for a company to seek to exclude select media outlets, and I believe such behavior would not be well received by institutional investors and shareholders.”

He said exclusivity by airline management is not something to be ashamed of.

“On some level, the ‘Irish Independent’ newspaper could take it as a compliment because it indicates that the newspaper is doing its job.

“It is the job of media organizations to ask difficult questions, however uncomfortable those questions may be,” he said.

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

Cormac Burke, editor-in-chief of Mediahuis Ireland which publishes Irish Independent, said there was no doubt Ryanair, or anyone else, could dictate the journalists’ job.

“We will not endorse a situation in which a company or, in fact, a minister, politician, or other organization can selective or veto the journalists they cover.”

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

He noted that in 2019, the Press Ombudsman’s office had fully investigated a complaint made by Ryanair regarding the reporting of the company and found in favor of the Irish Independent.

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

The annual general meeting of shareholders in a public company, such as Ryanair, is a rare opportunity for ordinary shareholders to ask questions directly in front of CEOs and powerful directors in an open forum and the procedures for these meetings are established and protected by law.

Media reports of statements made at a general assembly have a special legal status known as a qualified lien, which is similar but less protective than what is said in court or in a ‘del’.

In 2018, Ryanair attempted to prevent all media from attending its annual general meeting, the first after the airline suffered industrial disruption in late 2017 after a pilot shortage forced it to cancel thousands of flights. The airline’s management, led by Michael O’Leary, has dealt particularly with the Irish Independent’s groundbreaking, in-depth and exclusive reporting on industrial conflict during the period that led the airline to recognize labor unions.

An influential UK consulting firm, PIRC, said at the time that the proposed media ban “further weakens the company’s standing in the public eye”.