FRANKFURT: FIFA and local organisers of the World Cup in Russia next year have insisted that restrictions on visiting journalists are standard national practice and not excessively restrictive.
The issue erupted earlier this week when Reinhard Grindel, president of the German DFB, said he would raise concerns over censorship when he makes his debut appearance at a meeting of the world federation’s governing council next month.
Grindel was voted in only last month by European federation UEFA as one of its delegates around FIFA’s top table.
He has said he is disturbed by restrictive small print in the accreditation documentation for foreign media attending the Confederations Cup in June and July in Russia. This is a World Cup warm-up tournament for the nations taking part and also the organisers.
Grindel was referring to a passages in accreditation and visa documents which says journalists should ““solely cover the FIFA Confederations Cup 2017 and related events”, with their reporting area limited to the “territory of the host cities and cultural sites located nearby.”
He added: “At the FIFA Council meeting on May 9, I will make sure that the journalists accredited to the Confed Cup can report freely. It would be an important signal for the 2018 World Cup for the Russian organising committee to make it clear that there are no restrictions on freedom of the press.”
FIFA and the local organising committee have sought to counter his interpretation of the terms and conditions, saying that they are standard for all foreign journalists who apply for permission to work in Russia.
German newspaper Bild has said it will boycott the Confederations Cup while the restrictions remain in place.
However, a joint statement from FIFA and Russia 2018 sought to clarify Grindel’s concerns.
They said: “The freedom of the press is of paramount importance to FIFA and we always aim to provide media representatives with the best possible conditions for free coverage of all FIFA events.
“The FIFA Confederations Cup accreditation is a working tool that will also serve as a simplified visa for media representatives covering the competition.
“FIFA supports the implementation of a simplified visa as it contributes towards speeding up the entry of media representatives into Russia, thus ensuring they can properly cover the event.”
The statement then continued by clarifying standard restrictions on foreign journalists visiting Russia.
It said: “Journalists who have received a FIFA accreditation for the FCC can work freely without any restrictions within the host cities and in adjacent areas.
“If they want to work in other cities, according to Russian laws, they will have to obtain accreditation from the Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
“In accordance with Russian law, any media representatives intending to travel to Russia for other professional purposes can do so by following the standard procedure of Russia’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs and by applying for a regular media visa.”