PtG Article 29.09.2006

Calls on FIFA to lift its intolerable ban on Jennings

The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) has written to FIFA to demand that it lifts its intolerable ban on investigative reporter Andrew Jennings and allows him back in at FIFA press conferences. Jennings is the only reporter banned from FIFA but leaked minutes from FIFA’s Committee on Ethics and Fair Play show that at least one other reporter has also been in danger of exclusion.

For three years Andrew Jennings has been excluded from FIFA press conferences, he has received threatening letters and been met with a persistent refusal to respond to documented and serious charges of maladministration.

Most recently FIFA tried to ban the publication of his book Foul! in Switzerland. “The Jennings experience illustrates just how difficult life becomes for investigative journalists when powerful institutions give the impression they are answerable to on one and beyond criticism,” says Aidan White, IFJ Secretary General.

The IFJ says that FIFA should live up to its declared principles of openness and co-operate fully with Jennings and other investigative reporters. “Public trust depends absolutely upon open and accountable government and FIFA should be in the forefront of setting standards of transparency,” says White.

FIFA Committee prepared to exclude another reporter

Earlier this month Play the Game could report that FIFA maintains its right as a private organisation not to enter into discussions with or answer to journalists who oppose FIFA and severely violates the principles of proper journalism. So far only Andrew Jennings has been declared persona non grata by FIFA. However, leaked minutes from a meeting of FIFA’s Committee on Ethics and Fair Play in February this year shows that secretary general Urs Linsi proposed to ban another critical journalist, Jens Weinreich of the Berliner Zeitung, for publishing articles “attacking the integrity of the FIFA president and the FIFA general secretary in particular.”

According to the minutes Urs Linsi proposed that the journalist should be declared persona non grata as his misconduct had been comparable with that of Jennings. The committee unanimously agreed and referred the matter to the Executive Committee for ratification. However, Jens Weinreich has not been banned from FIFA. President Sepp Blatter intervened and personally reassured the reporter that such an event would not occur. Observers believe that  the incident is mainly an illustration of the in-fight between Sepp Blatter and his secretary general but such events do nothing  to bolster FIFA’s public commitment to transparency.

Read the full statement from the International Federation of Journalists