POLICE have launched an investigation into the individuals behind a petition calling for BBC Scotland journalist Chris McLaughlin to be sacked, according to reports.
A group calling themselves ‘Bears Fightback’ launched the petition earlier this week, which has so far attracted more than 600 signatures - although a number appear to be opposing the petition.
The BBC earlier this week confirmed it had launched a renewed boycott of Rangers press conferences and home matches due to the Ibrox side refusing McLaughlin entry to the stadium ahead of the 4-1 win over Livingston a fortnight ago.
The petition description reads: “Chris McLaughlin has proved that he cannot be impartial when it comes to reporting on Rangers FC and it’s [sic] supporters.
“BBC Scotland refused to send a match reporter to 3rd most attended football match in the UK, and the most attended match in Scotland on January 16th 2016 due to this employee being banned from the stadium. This is unacceptable.”
A blog, believed to have been set up by the same ‘Bears Fightback’ group that started the petition, was brought to attention on social media after journalist Graham Spiers raised concerns over the content of some the posts.
One post on the blog, published on January 17, read: “In the last few years particularly, our club, our fans and our way of life have been battered from pillar to post by the governing bodies, the media, politicians and opposition fans.
“We are witnessing blatant lies, libellous articles and slanderous interviews.
“This blog has been set up to defend the honour of the club and it’s [sic] supporters. To all the haters, heed this warning. Your articles and comments are being noticed.
“We will look into the history of each and every individual or company embroiled in this hate fest, and we will look to hurt you in any way legally possible.
We will continue to report on Rangers and will feature match action but, until this issue is resolved, we will not be sending journalists to Ibrox or attending press conferencesBBC Scotland
“If you lose your business, your money, your home, your husband or wife, your children or your freedom, don’t say you weren’t warned.”
A spokesman added: “It has been reported to the police. We are aware and we are looking into it.”
The blog has since been shut down, but a Twitter post written on January 22nd read: “Service shall be resumed shortly #NoSurrender.”
McLaughlin was initially banned from Rangers matches at the start of August 2015 after Rangers accused BBC Scotland’s senior sports reporter of writing unbalanced articles about the club.
BBC insiders revealed that the corporation had taken the decision not to send any reporters to Ibrox and would instead rely on news agencies until the ban on McLaughlin was lifted.
But the row was stoked by the Ibrox club’s response to an article in the aftermatch of Rangers’ 6-2 win over Hibernian in the Petrofac Training Cup which focused on the arrest of some Rangers fans.
After talks between the club and the BBC, the boycott was dropped and Rangers agreed to lift the ban on McLaughlin.
But the club reinstated the ban around two weeks ago, saying that the ban was ‘about balance and fairness,’ while the BBC confirmed that it would once again be boycotting Ibrox.
A statement from Rangers read: “It is Rangers’ view that after having asked for, and having been promised, [balance and fairness] - nothing more, and certainly not favour from this or any other reporter - it has not been forthcoming.
“The BBC know they are welcome but once again they have chosen not to attend Ibrox thereby denying licence payers the opportunity to see and hear from Rangers on a publicly-funded platform which is supposed to be for everyone. Rangers fans are entitled to ask if this is an abuse of the BBC’s privileged position.”
The BBC issued a statement sying: “We are disappointed that Rangers took the decision to ban our reporter Chris McLaughlin from Ibrox.
“We believe it is unjustifiable and we stand by the integrity and the quality of our journalism.
“We will continue to report on Rangers both on and off the pitch and will feature match action where appropriate but, until this issue is resolved, we will not be sending journalists to Ibrox or attending Rangers’ press conferences.”
THE SCOTSMAN on SOCIAL MEDIA