Yesterday, the garda press office issued an alert to journalists about an “incident” in Mountmellick, where a man had barricaded himself inside a house.
The brief notice asked journalists to respect a blackout in reporting the incident until it was resolved.
Sometimes, based on their assessment, garda authorities will ask journalists to cover an event, as a way of communicating directly with someone who may be listening to a radio. And sometimes, they ask for silence, to avoid inflaming a situation.
The situation was resolved in Mountmellick, and the stand-off was then reported by the press. There’s no way to tell if the embargo helped or not, but it was observed by every journalist.
A press embargo should be rare, and only invoked in the public interest. The situation above is a perfect illustration. But instead, it is abused more often than respected. Among the recent embargo requests I’ve received are numerous speeches by ministers and TDs, a litter bug survey, the Tidy Towns winner, announcements on prescription drug prices, smoking, road repairs, and a smattering of surveys.
What should be a rare restraint in the public interest has instead become a way for press oficers to manipulate news cycles.