Germany’s largest newspaper boycotts Confederations Cup over press restrictions

26 April 2017

Germany’s highest selling newspaper, Bild, has decided to boycott the Confederations Cup in Russia this summer over press freedom restrictions.

Journalists being given entry to Russia for the event have been informed that they will not be able to freely travel in the country.

The guidelines issued to reporters in media organisations with approved accreditation state that they will be allowed to “solely cover the FIFA Confederations Cup 2017 and related events” and only work “on the territory of the host cities and cultural sites located nearby”.

Bild decided to go public with the demands and boycott the tournament, which serves as preparation for the 2018 World Cup.

“A journalist who cannot report everything he sees is not a journalist, but a propagandist,” the German daily wrote.

“Bild will not send any reporter to the Confederations Cup as long as this censorship applies.”

If journalists wish to cover other events must apply to the Foreign Affairs Ministry for another visa.

Russia’s deputy prime minister, Vitaly Mutko, defended the stipulations, saying at a meeting with FIFA officials in Saint Petersburg: “In Russia there is an accreditation procedure for foreign journalists, which has been in force since 1994.”

Mutko added that journalists could cover “everything they want, without any problems”.

The president of the German Football Association (DFB), Reinhard Grindel, backed the newspaper, saying that he would advocate for free reporting for accredited journalists at the next FIFA Council meeting, on May 9.

“It would be an important signal for the 2018 World Cup if the Russian Organising Committee, right from the dress rehearsal, made it clear there are no restrictions of the freedom of the press,” he told Bild.

A Germany parliamentarian, Ralf Stegner, also expressed similar concerns. Stegner, who is a vice-president of the Social Democratic Party, told the German daily: “Just as we don't think it's right that US President [Donald] Trump attacks the 'fake media', we can't accept it when [Russian President Vladimir] Putin or FIFA restrict freedom of press.”

FIFA appeared to defend the proposals, releasing a statement saying that the accreditation system would serve as a “simplified” visa and that it “supports the implementation” of such a visa as it “contributes towards speeding up the entry of media representatives into Russia”.

“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.”

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