Press bodies unite to fight freedom threat

An international coalition of media organisations has launched a campaign to fight back against sports organisers’ increasing attempts to influence the freedom of the press.

AIPS, the international sports writers’ association to which the SJA is affiliated, has grown concerned and frustrated at the movement to price and sell sponsorship of forms, facts and methods of expression, which belong properly in the public domain.

SJA member Keir Radnedge attended the campaign’s initial meeting in London in his role as chairman of the AIPS football commission. He said: “It’s a relief to find that sports writers are not the only people concerned about the attempts by federations to control the dissemination of news and opinions.”

The initial forum was hosted in London on June 25 by the Newspaper Publishers Association, which represents the British national newspapers.

More than 30 international media organisations were represented. These included the European Publishers Council (EPC), the European Newspaper Publishers Association (ENPA), World Association of Newspapers (WAN), members of the Association of International News Agencies (AINA) and the British Society of Editors (SoE).

Further support came from media bodies in Australia, France, Germany, Ireland, New Zealand, Portugal and the United States.

“In exchange for permission to attend a major sports events, journalists are often contractually, through accreditation terms and conditions, obliged to limit the timing and volume of reports, images and scores, especially during an event when the public appetite for news is greatest,” a statement issued after the meeting said.

This development follows the success of a campaign by WAN, in co-operation with other major media groups last year, which forced Fifa to remove restrictions on coverage of the 2006 World Cup in Germany, including intended delays and volume controls on newspaper websites.

Another catalyst for the meeting were the restrictions on free reporting being imposed for the Rugby World Cup in France in September.

The meeting condemned the International Rugby Board for “failing to recognise fully the direct contribution a free press makes to the public interest in their events as well as the indirect value given to event partners such as sponsors.”

See how the Guardian Unlimited followed up on our story by clicking here

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