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May 11, 2020updated 30 Sep 2022 9:16am

Peers ‘unlikely’ to take up offer from rugby star Gareth Thomas to testify on tabloid behaviour

By Charlotte Tobitt

A House of Lords committee looking into the future of journalism has turned down an offer from Welsh rugby legend Gareth Thomas to testify on the “horrific experience” he has faced at the hands of the tabloid press.

Thomas said in September that a journalist revealed his HIV positive status to his parents before he told them himself, forcing him to go public about his diagnosis when he would have preferred to keep it quiet.

He approached the Sunday Mirror and praised its handling of the story (pictured below).

He did not name the newspaper that sent a journalist to speak to his parents, saying only: “…everybody will know, especially of late”.

Thomas made a submission to the House of Lords Committee on Communications and Digital’s inquiry into the future of journalism, making his comments about the industry alongside representatives from publishing companies, academics and journalists.

He responded to the inquiry question asking “why has trust in journalists declined and how could it be improved?”

In his submission, published last week, Thomas wrote: “In my humble opinion, post-Leveson, the behaviour and the bullying in certain sectors of the press has become worse than ever.

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“We are seeing it with the Duke and Duchess of Sussex, we have seen it with Caroline Flack, Ben Stokes, and myself. We are just the tip of the iceberg, and I could relay many, many other examples.

“My dealings with the tabloid press have had a devastating effect on not just myself, but also my family and my friends. Most recently being forced to publicly declare my private medical status was an horrific experience.”

Thomas added that it was “so bad” he felt unable to write a detailed account for the inquiry, but that he would be willing to give oral testimony to the committee about his experience.

He would go into more detail on “why I feel the behaviour of the tabloids is getting worse, and what I believe needs to be done to check this behaviour,” he said.

But a House of Lords spokesperson told Press Gazette today: “The committee thanked Mr Thomas for his offer and his submission to its inquiry.

“As the schedule of future evidence sessions and witnesses has been agreed already it’s unlikely that the committee will ask Mr Thomas to appear.”

The inquiry called for evidence on the changing news media landscape and how journalists can be supported to adapt to these changes, how journalists “can become more trusted by the general public”, and whether public policy could better support the training of journalists in the UK.

Picture: BBC

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