Fifa guarantees press freedom

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MEDIA CONTACTS
• Femida Mehtar
Executive director
SA National Editors’ Forum
+27 11 484 3630
+27 11 484 3617
+27 84 784 2006
director@sanef.org.za
• Wolfgang Eichler
Fifa media officer
+27 11 567 2010
+27 83 2010 471
media-sa@fifa.org
• Delia Fischer
Fifa media officer
+27 11 567 2010
+27 11 567 2524
+27 83 201 0470
media-sa@fifa.org

Mary Alexander

World football body Fifa has reassured the South African and international media that the purpose of its terms and conditions for accreditation for reporting on the 2010 World Cup “is not, and has never been, to restrict press freedom”.

In a statement issued on 1 February, Fifa said: “The purpose of the media accreditation terms and conditions is to regulate the behaviour of people entering the 2010 Fifa World Cup venues, first and foremost to ensure the safety of everyone in those venues.”

This follows growing media concerns over Fifa’s conditions, expressed mainly by the South African Media Interest Group (Samig), which is made up of members of the South African National Editors’ Forum (Sanef) and industry body Print Media South Africa. According to The Media Online, the main points of contention are:

  • Newspapers will not be able to push pictures on to their mobile platforms (they can, however, push text).
  • There are restrictions on newspapers doing video packages for their websites.
  • Reporters will not be able to report on the names of hotels in which the teams are staying.
  • No newspapers will be able to sell papers within the restricted zone around stadiums, which has a radius of about 800 metres.
  • Although Fifa commits itself to guaranteeing freedom of expression, there is also a clause that says that news organisations may not bring Fifa into disrepute.
  • Many of the terms and conditions apply to reporters and photographers and their “organisations” (suggesting their colleagues, some of whom will not be covering the World Cup) rather than “employer” (their editors).

The dispute intensified last week, with three major South African news organisations – Avusa, Media24 and Independent Newspapers – appointing law firm Webber Wentzel to “engage in a constructive way” with Fifa over the accreditation terms and conditions.

Although there was no threat of legal action, Dario Milo, of law firm Webber Wentzel said at the time that the media houses believed the terms and conditions “unjustifiably limit media freedom”.

“The particular provisions that our clients take issue with are those that empower Fifa to unilaterally withdraw the accreditation of any journalist or unilaterally change the conditions, and also provisions which restrict reportage where, in Fifa’s view, this may harm the reputation of the Fifa World Cup,” he said.

On Monday Fifa attorneys sent Webber Wentzel a written assurance that it was not seeking to restrict press freedom, and issued a media release to back it up. On the same day, Samig held a meeting with Sanef, other media industry bodies and Larry Kilman from the World Association of Newspapers and News Publishers (WAN-IFRA).

“Fifa would like to make it clear that it does respect the freedom of the press,” Fifa said in the statement. “Editorial independence in the coverage of the Fifa World Cup is guaranteed and this principle is enshrined in Article 1 of the terms and conditions, the second paragraph of which states as follows:

“‘For the avoidance of doubt, nothing in the terms and conditions is intended to be, or shall be interpreted as restricting or undermining the editorial independence or freedom to report and comment of Accredited Parties.’

“This is an overall principle and, as the wording implies, the terms which are the cause of the complaint must always be read bearing this principle in mind.”

Fifa concluded by pointing out that there had been no restrictions to press freedom during the 2009 Fifa Confederations Cup, held as a dry-run for the 2010 event.

“There were no complaints regarding press freedom on that occasion and there is no instance of Fifa have abused the provision to restrict press freedom,” Fifa said.

Full text of the Fifa statement:

We have had joint consultations with the key stakeholders from the international press, including WAN (World Association of Newspapers) and AIPS (Association Internationale de la Presse Sportive, or International Sports Press Association), during the drafting process of the terms and conditions and we have incorporated into the terms and conditions some of the suggestions that they have made. We have also had meetings with Sanef and with other representatives of the South African media.

The contacts with WAN, AIPS and other media stakeholders have been very fruitful during the past years and we even have a standing media committee at Fifa which includes representatives of AIPS, WAN, individual journalists and photographers as well representatives from each Confederation.

The purpose of the media accreditation terms and conditions is to regulate the behaviour of people entering the 2010 Fifa World Cup venues, first and foremost to ensure the safety of everyone in those venues. The purpose is not, and has never been, to restrict press freedom.

Fifa would like to make it clear that it does respect the freedom of the press. Editorial independence in the coverage of the Fifa World Cup is guaranteed and this principle is enshrined in Article 1 of the terms and conditions, the second paragraph of which states as follows:

For the avoidance of doubt, nothing in the terms and conditions is intended to be, or shall be interpreted as restricting or undermining the editorial independence or freedom to report and comment of Accredited Parties.

This is an overall principle and, as the wording implies, the terms which are the cause of the complaint must always be read bearing this principle in mind.

We should also point out that the particular provision which has been complained about as restricting the freedom of the press was contained in the media accreditation terms and conditions for the Fifa Confederations Cup South Africa 2009. There were no complaints regarding press freedom on that occasion and there is no instance of Fifa have abused the provision to restrict press freedom.