World Association of Newspapers and News Publishers


Press Freedom At Risk in Belarus During Ice Hockey World Championships

Press Freedom At Risk in Belarus During Ice Hockey World Championships

2014-01-31

The World Association of Newspapers and News Publishers (WAN-IFRA), the World Editors Forum, the European Newspaper Publishers’ Association (ENPA) and the News Media Coalition have protested to the International Ice Hockey Federation about visa requirements for journalists wanting to travel to Belarus to cover the World Ice Hockey Championships in May.

While reporters accredited to the event via the International Ice Hockey Federation system will not need a visa to enter Belarus, they will need to apply for a visa if they want to report on anything else while in the country. Belarus has an extremely restrictive media environment.

“Having chosen one of the most repressive regimes in Europe to host your event, we ask that the International Ice Hockey Federation take all possible steps to ensure that Belarus fully respects its international obligations to freedom of expression,” the letter said.

The IIHF has a duty to ensure that journalists were free to carry out their legitimate news gathering duties and to ensure their partnership with the host country did not encourage or promote repression. Sport does not occur in a vacuum and journalists should be free to report without restrictions, the organizations said.

Many journalists were interpreting the regulations as a form of censorship, said Markku Mantila, a World Editors Forum Board member and Editor-in-chief of the Finnish newspaper Kavela.

 “The decision has caused concern at least in Finland, but I believe the feeling is the same around the hockey world. We in Finland find the decision made by Belarus officials nothing but censorship,” Mantila said.

The full letter can be read at http://www.wan-ifra.org/node/98693

WAN-IFRA, based in Paris, France, and Darmstadt, Germany, with subsidiaries in Singapore and India, is the global organisation of the world’s newspapers and news publishers. It represents more than 18,000 publications, 15,000 online sites and over 3,000 companies in more than 120 countries. Its core mission is to defend and promote press freedom, quality journalism and editorial integrity and the development of prosperous businesses.

The World Editors Forum is the organisation within WAN-IFRA for chief editors and other senior newsroom personnel.

ENPA is an international non-profit organisation representing publishers of newspapers and news media on all platforms. ENPA represents over 5,200 national, regional and local newspaper titles, published in many EU Member States, plus Norway, Switzerland and Serbia.

The News Media Coalition is an international organisation and worldwide network focusing on the specific threat to legitimate editorial, press and publishing freedoms from the controls placed on news-gathering and news-distribution practices by the organisers of major events of public interest.

Inquiries to: Larry Kilman, Deputy CEO and Director of Communications and Public Affairs, WAN-IFRA, 96 bis, rue Beaubourg, 75003 Paris France. Tel: +33 1 47 42 85 07. Fax: +33 1 42 78 92 33. Mobile: +33 6 10 28 97 36. E-mail: larry.kilman@wan-ifra.org

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In countless countries, journalists, editors and publishers are physically attacked, imprisoned, censored, suspended or harassed for their work. WAN-IFRA is committed to defending freedom of expression by promoting a free and independent press around the world. Read more ...