The NUJ has joined a growing number of media voices condemning the banning of journalists from Newcastle United following a dispute over coverage related to owner Mike Ashley.Journalists from local titles the Newcastle Chronicle, Journal and the Sunday Sun have been banned from the club’s stadium, press box and training ground, and from conducting interviews with players and managers.On Tuesday, the Chronicle released an edition with a front page splash declaring “Banned but not Gagged” and pledged to “keep telling the truth”.An un-named NUJ member working for one of the banned papers said: “If we had not reported on the protest march the previous Saturday afternoon, we would not have been doing our jobs. Now we are banned because we are doing our jobs.“We are trying to stay adult about it. We do get stick for all sorts of reasons as local sports reporters, but on this there has been 98 per cent positive feedback on Twitter and people are supporting us as local journalists and the newspapers as institutions in the city.”Newcastle United were described by NUJ Newcastle branch representative David Baines as “serial offenders” and he described the club’s leaders as “rather pathetic figures, think-skinned and paranoid” who were engaging in bullying behaviour.The move follows a similar ban – now lifted – issued to the Daily and Sunday Telegraph in May after sportswriter Luke Edwards wrote about dressing room divisions within the club.The latest development prompted Edwards to take to the Telegraph blog to pen an article titled: “We’re sports reporters, Mr Ashley, not media partners – and we’re worth more than you think.”Edwards wrote that the ban was issued after one of the papers, the Chronicle – although all of the titles banned are part of the Trinity Mirror stable – gave too much coverage of a fans’ anti-Ashley protest march and “did not defend the club’s owner enough”.Edwards wrote: “Newcastle United’s owner Mike Ashley does not like newspapers. We are a nuisance to him, we criticise and dare to question his decision, but most of all we do not pay millions of pounds every season for the right to cover Premier League football matches.”He added that the ban came after the club’s media department demanded more positive coverage from the local titles, despite Ashley’s unpopularity with fans.He said: “The decision to ban them came after several threats had been made via the club’s media department that they would be if they continued to offer negative coverage of the team and club.”The papers also received support from Channel 4 News chief correspondent Alex Thomson – who in May called on the FA to impose contractual obligations to prevent clubs from banning journalists – and retired Daily Mirror sportswriter Brian McNally.
I see NUFC have banned 3 Tyneside papers for daring to do their job. When are radio, tv and paper journalists going to stop this crap?...— alex thomson (@alextomo) October 28, 2013
Time they called time on Ashley, Pardew et al and banned the club from any coverage til they come out of North Korea - fat chance.— alex thomson (@alextomo) October 28, 2013
Beats me what Mike Ashley hopes to achieve by banning 3 local papers. He's scored many own goals at #nufc but this could be his most costly.— Brian McNally (@McNallyMirror) October 29, 2013
Ashley's arrogance & ignorance in refusing to ever communicate with his #nufc customers shows the contempt in which he holds football fans.— Brian McNally (@McNallyMirror) October 29, 2013
Ashley wants to muzzle free speech & ride roughshod over public opinion. Together the media & fans have the power to stop that happening.— Brian McNally (@McNallyMirror) October 29, 2013