FIFA issues statement to answer SA media concerns

02.02.2010

By Steve Menary
FIFA has moved to quell anxiety in the South African media over press freedom by making written promises to a group of media owners in a letter received by Play the Game.

The SA Media Interest group (SAMIG), which comprises the South African National Editors' Forum and industry body Print Media South Africa and media owners such as Avusa, Media 24 and Independent Newspapers, met with FIFA to express their concerns on January 21.

Through its lawyers Webber Wentzel, FIFA has sent a detailed response to SAMIG (see full letter below) promising that the purpose of the accreditation terms is ‘not, and has never been, to restrict press freedom’

“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,” said FIFA in a statement. “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 [sic] abused the provision to restrict press freedom.”

The latest FIFA media accreditation rules, including the new clause cited in FIFA’s letter, were put together in early 2009 with input from international media representatives such as the World Association of Newspapers, and international journalists body AIPS, but the South African media wanted a written commitment on press freedom.

SAMIG welcomed FIFA’s move and intends to continue talks. Industry affairs liason Mamuso Thulo said: “SAMIG is to continue its dialogue with FIFA attorneys on this and other areas.”

 


FIFA LETTER TO SAMIG IN FULL

“We are instructed by FIFA and the Local Organising Committee to respond to your letter and submissions which were received by FIFA and the Local Organising Committee on the 28th of January 2010.

Our clients are surprised that the submissions have been sent a few days before the deadline for Applications for Accreditation.  The Terms and Conditions were in fact made public after the final draw early in December 2009.

Due to the time constraints, and in an endeavour to send you a response before close of business today, we will not deal with or respond to every point or allegation set out in your submissions, but any failure to deal with specific issues should not be construed as our client’s admittance of the truth or correctness of such statements.

Clause 6.3 of the Terms and Conditions is specifically inserted to protect accredited journalists, the public in general and those working for FIFA and other entities on the 2010 FIFA World Cup™ from unacceptable conduct. Please note that the same wording is therefore contained in the non-media accreditation terms and conditions and in the Stadium Code of Conduct which applies to all parties entering the stadiums and which can be found on FIFA’s website, www.FIFA.com. In the past there have been instances where individuals, including on occasions members of the media, have abused their privileges causing disturbance and on occasions harm to other parties.

The provisions of Clause 6.3 are thus aimed at regulating 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.

The second paragraph under the heading “SCOPE” stating that “…nothing in these Accreditation 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” overrides clause 6.3 with regard to the media’s freedom to comment or analyse issues around the event.

The Terms and Conditions for accreditation for the FIFA Confederation Cup 2009 contained the exact same clause as Clause 6.3. No objections were received by any party when accreditation was applied for, for that event.

We do not believe that FIFA is required to give reasons for withholding or withdrawing accreditation.  FIFA will deal with each situation on a case by case basis to ensure that any action taken by them is both effective and fair.

It is important for FIFA to act quickly to protect public safety, hence the need to have provisions giving discretion to refuse or revoke accreditation.

FIFA undertook discussions with the World Association of Newspapers in relation to the Accreditation provisions and in fact inserted various provisions at their request.

Prior to and since the finalisation of the Terms and Conditions FIFA has also had discussions with SANEF which acknowledged the Accreditation Terms and Conditions. Incidentally numerous entities that are member of SANEF are also members of the organisations you represent.

We hope that the information given above explains the rationale behind the particular provisions referred to in your submissions. Your clients should have no fear of being restricted in any way as regards reporting and commenting on issues around the 2010 FIFA World Cup.

Regards,

Clifford Green”

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