Russia critiques new handbook for journalists covering the World Cup

Photo: Wikimedia

Photo: Wikipedia. Luzhniki Stadium in Moscow.


By Luca Arfini
A new handbook for foreign journalists covering the 2018 World Cup in Russia is labelled ‘russophobic’ by Russian Foreign Minister's spokesperson.

Last Wednesday, Maria Zakharova, the Russian Foreign Minister´s top press spokesperson, critiqued the Handbook realized by the Norwegian Helsinki Committee (NHC), a non-governmental organisation monitoring the human rights situations in different countries of the world, defining it as a “completely russophobic document”.

The motive behind the handbook is to guide foreign journalists covering the upcoming FIFA World Cup and provide them with some relevant information on the context surrounding the football matches, hoping they will take them in consideration when they will write about the event.

“The purpose of this manual is not to destroy enthusiasm about the world’s biggest sporting event, but to provide background, much of which is well-known to most,” it is stated in the handbook.

However, Zakharova has a different opinion on the purpose of the manual.

“The so-called `handbook´ includes a banal set of characteristic anti-Russian stereotypes, which do not have anything to do with sport journalism. We see this publication as another unfriendly step by the Norwegian side made within the frames of the West’s anti-Russian information campaign,” she said.

The handbook reports of several human rights violations perpetrated in Russia such as the bad working conditions of North Korean workers building the stadium in St. Petersburg; the 20 different measures introduced to strengthen security at the World Cup that substantially limit many different freedoms; the persecution of hundreds of gay men in Chechnya, the difficult situation of Russian environmentalists labelled as “enemy of the state” and the issues related to fans’ safety in Russian stadiums.

“Every person living in the 11 host cities of the World Cup will face human rights restrictions – a special regime of registration not only for foreigners but for Russian citizens, de-facto bans on public gatherings and protests during the World Cup and other measures described as unconstitutional,” stated the journalist Artem Filatov in an interview in the handbook.

Spokesperson Zakharova believes the hidden intention of NHC is sharing propaganda material against Russia.

“The initiative that seems to be useful at first glance and aimed at helping sports observers cover the main football event occurring every four years actually turned out to be nothing but more Russophobia,” she said, writes Russian news site TASS. “It is a practical guide for the media to demonize Russia and discredit the forthcoming world championship.”

But according to the Secretary General of the NHC, Bjørn Engesland, the handbook is not meant to demonise, but to inform.

“The manual provides examples of negative environmental impacts, corruption and issues related to slave-like conditions for workers who built World Cup arenas. The aim is to provide useful background for journalists on stories that are worth telling during the world's biggest sporting event,” he said in an article about the Russian reaction .

He also added that the Russian government “should deal with the problems instead of attacking the ones who address them.”

More information

  • Find the Handbook for journalists covering the 2018 World Cup in Russia here.

  • Find more information about the Norwegian Helsinki Committee here.

  • Following organisations have contributed to the handbook: NHC, FRI, Amnesty International Norway, Skeiv Verden, Naturvernforbundet, Natur og Ungdom, HRHF.




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