BERLIN: FIFA and the German government have persuaded the Russian authorities to reverse a decision to bar investigative journalist Hajo Seppelt from attending next month’s World Cup finals writes KEIR RADNEDGE.
Initially broadcaster ARD complained that Seppelt had not merely been refused event accreditation – allowing him media access – but had been declared persona non grata and refused a visa to enter Russia.
ARD described the refusal of admit Seppelt as “unique in the history of ARD’s sports journalism [and] an unheard-of violation of press freedom.”
This decision has now been overturned and Seppelt has been granted a visa.
A FIFA spokesman said: “FIFA was informed today that Mr Seppelt’s visa to cover the 2018 FIFA World Cup has been approved.
“We regret the inconvenience experienced by the journalist and reiterate that FIFA, LOC and hosts Russia will offer the best possible working conditions for all accredited media representatives.
“As stated on many occasions and in line with FIFA’s Human Rights Policy, press freedom is of paramount importance to FIFA.”
Earlier a German government spokesman had protested that “denying oress freedom in this manner reflects badly on Russia as host in the eyes of the world.”
Seppelt drew the ire of the Russian authorities with a series of television documentaries which laid bare a massive doping cover-up, prompting two damning inquiries by the world anti-doping authorities.
Consequences included Russian competitors being unable to complete in athletics events at the 2016 Rio de Janeiro Olympics and the country being forced to masquerade under an ‘Olympic Athlete of Russia’ flag at the recent Winter Games in Pyeongchang, South Korea.