The Dangers of Sports Journalism


By Kirsten Sparre
A list compiled by Play the Game over journalists who have been assaulted, killed or endured legal actions for their reporting on sport clearly show that safety is an issue for sports journalists too as the many stakeholders in sport threaten journalists and freedom of expression in different ways.

Doing sports journalism may not be as dangerous as being a war correspondent in Iraq. Yet, a list compiled by Play the Game over journalists who have been assaulted, killed or endured legal actions for their reporting on sport clearly show that safety is an issue for sports journalists too.

There are many stakeholders in sport who threaten journalists and freedom of expression in different ways. Below you will find stories about journalists beaten up or killed by fans, athletes, paramilitaries, and police. There are also disturbing evidence of the legal system being employed to silence sports journalists - most notable among them the case of the Burmese sports editor, Zaw Thet Htwe, who was sentenced to death for publishing critical articles about sport in Burma.

The list is not complete and only covers the period from 2000. If you know of any assaults or legal actions against sports journalists that should be included on the list, please e-mail us at Provide a brief description of the incident and preferably also a link to a written source for the story.


Somalia 17 April 2008

Sports journalists Muse Mohamed Osman and Shafici Mohyaddin Abokar, president and first vice president of the Somali Sports Press Association (SSPA) respectively, were detained by Mogadishu police officers last week and threatened with their lives. The two were detained with four other journalists: Ibrahim Abdi Hassan, Abdi Kamil Yusuf, Mohamed Abdullahi and Mohamed Kafi Ali. All six were taken away by heavily armed men on Thursday 17 April at noon and released at 9 pm that evening. They were held at the criminal investigation department in Mogadishu. The six were reportedly arrested for their radio station's coverage of fighting between militants and government forces the day beforehand.


For more information click here


Source: SSPA and IFJ

Peru 24 April 2007

The director of Peru's Sports Institute, Hugo Catalán Loayza, punched journalist Hernán Farfán Cruzado, director of Inti Radio, in the face and kicked him as revenge for accusations broadcasted by Farfán Cruzado. The accusations implicated Catalán Loayza in the misappropriation of funds and describe him as inefficient. The journalist explained that the official is threatening the region's sports journalists, telling them that if they accuse him of irregularities, their children will suffer the consequences.

Source: IFEX


Liberia  31 March 2007

Julu Johnson, a sports editor for the Liberian newspaper News, was physically attacked by the deputy secretary general of the Liberia Football Association (LFA), Mr. Napoleon Jaeploe, when he went to cover LFA’s recent extra-ordinary congress. The attack took place in full public view of all the delegates.


For more information, click here




Brazil  17 January 2007

Radio Gaucha reporter Rafael Serra was assaulted by Gremio football team fans and hit in the face when he was covering the arrival of the team's new goalkeeper at a local airport. The reporter suspects the attack was a reaction to criticisms made by the radio stations about acts of vandalism carried out by fans of the team.


Source: IFEX


Argentina     12 November 2006 Sports journalist Juan Manuel Allan of "Olé" newspaper and Osvaldo Fanjul from the television station TyC were assaulted by group of football fans at a stadium in Argentina. The fans beat them in a corridor near the changing rooms and the reporters only escaped when doors were opened to the locker rooms.

Source: IFEX
Honduras  19 August 2006 Sports reporter Heribaldo Lainez who works for the newspaper Diario Tiempo and Radio America was struck in the face when he approached football player Jairo Martinez for an interview. The football player was upset by articles written by Lainez and believed his words had been twisted by the reporter.

Source: IFEX
Swaziland     16 July 2006 Sports reporter Ntokozo Magongo from Times of Swaziland was attacked by fans attending a football match as he attempted to take pictures of violence between fans.

Source: IFEX
Swaziland     15 July 2006 Sports reporter Sabelo Ndzinisa from Times of Swaziland was punched several times by football player Dumisa Masika who claimed he had been defamed in a satirical sports column published in the newspaper every weekend.

Source: IFEX
Croatia  17 June 2006

Journalist Stipe Pudja of the Croatian newspaper, Vercernji List, recieved death threats on SMS after reporting on a World Cup ticketing fraud affair where Croatians living in Germany had been cheated. The messages threatening the journalist and his family came from a mobile phone belonging to a man who allegedly was behind the scam.




Peru   2 May 2006 A group of professional football players from Club Sport Ancash and the owner of a discotheque in the Ancash region of Peru assaulted four television journalists who had followed the football players into the discoteque. The journalists lost their camera and were beaten up.

Source: IFEX
Bangladesh    16 April 2006 25 police officers attacked a group of 20 sports journalists and photographers covering a cricket match between Bangladesh and Australia. The journalists and photographers had stage a sit-down-strike on the pitch in protest against an unmotivated attacked by police on a photograhper earlier that morning. The govenment has set up an independent inquiry into the incident.

Source: International News Safety Institute

Denmark    26 March 2006

A sponsor of the Danish handball club, Aalborg DH, made death threats against sports editor Mikkel B. Ottesen, Nordjyske Medier, after a handball match. The sponsor accused the sports editor of writing lies about the club's economic affairs. The sponsor has now been charged by the police.


Source: Nordjyske Medier


Guatemala    22 January 2006 Frustrated local soccer fans are believed to behind the armed attack on the home of sports journalist Manuel Gilberto Garcia. Bullets were fired at his house but luckily no one was injured. Garcia has been receiving threatening phonecalls for the past five years. 

Source: IFEX
Sweden    20 December 2005 
 10 January 2006

Reporter Fredrik Persson of Swedish Radio Bleking received death threats after publishing a speculative story about the possible purchase of a new player for local football club, Mjällby AIF.

He received a new threat a couple of weeks later.

Source: Swedish Radio Blekinge


Guatemala  18 December 2005

Two reporters and a photojournalist were insulted and attacked by players of the football team Communicacions. The journalists were trying to interview the players who had just lost 2-0 to rivals from the Municipal Club.


Source: AP Spanish news service 


Swaziland   16 October 2005 Douglas Dlamini, sports journalist with Times of Swaziland, was assaulted by a soccer player for publishing a court report in which the player was charged with drinking and driving.

Source: IFEX 
Greece   30 September 2005

Periklis Stellas, sports journalist and director of the Thessaloniki branch of the sports daily newspaper, Goal News, was attacked by an unknown man who hit him several times in the head and face. Stellas was left with a concussion, a fractured jawbone and other minor injuries.


Source: International Press Institute


Malta    8 September 2005

A tv-crew from Croatian Television was attacked by group of Maltese policemen after a football match.


Source: HRT1 TV, Zabreb, in Croatian, 8 September 1730 gmt 


Botswana   31 August 2005

Mmegi sports journalist, Tshepo Molwane, was attacked by a football player who was unhappy with a story the journalist had written about him.


Source: AllAfrica  


Brazil  3 June 2005

After an indoor soccer game, Josè Carlos Forner and camera man Robson Xavier from CaTV tried to interview the losing team. The team had complained about officiating, and the police began beating up the team as well as the TV-crew that was following the team to the locker room. The camera man was shot in the knee with a rubber bullet.


Source: Committee to Protect Journalists


Greece  7 May 2005

Sports journalist Kostas Nikolakopoulos was brutally beaten by four hooded men with ironbars and knuckeldusters. The four men are believed to be football hooligans, and Nikolakopoulos had been receving threats for three months.


Source: Reporters sans frontières


Peru   6 December 2004 Carlos Alberta Navarro, a sports commentator for Panamericana Television station, was assaulted by Flavio Maestri, a professional football player for the Alianza Lima football club. Maestri was unhappy because Navarro refused to publicly apologise for negative comments he had made about Maestri's professional performance.

Source: IFEX
Greece  18 October 2004

Sports editor, Phillipos Syrigos, was attacked by two unknown men wearing helmets. He was beaten and stabbed. Syrigos had received threats prior to the attack and calls protesting his relevations.


Source: Reporters sans frontières


China   7 August 2004

Police officers attacked two photographers, Han Guan Ng and Frederick Brown, who were taking pictures of a crowd outside a football stadium in Beijing after the Asian Cup soccer final


Source: Committee to Protect Journalists


Kazakhstan  11 March 2004

Sports journalist Maxim Khartashov was attacked and beaten by two unidentified assailants in the capital, Almaty. The journalist believes the attack was linked to his exposure of drug scandals, match-fixing and embezzlement in the sports sector.


Source: Reporters sans frontières


Uruguay  late 2003

Ricardo Gabito Acevedo, a sports reporter with a newspaper and tv station, was shot in the leg because of his extensive reporting on corruption in Uruguayan soccer.


Source: Committee to Protect Journalists


Mozambique    8 October 2003 Luis Dionisio, a sports journalist with Radio Mozambique, was attacked by chairperson Anteje Buanar of the Desportiva Football Club. Buanar also tried to confiscate the journalists' equipment.

Source: IFEX
Democratic Republic of Congo  22 June 2003

At a national soccer match between Congo and Libya, a sports photojournalist was punched in the face by the Libyan national goalkeeper, as the goalkeeper was leaving the field after receiving a red card.


Source: International Freedom of Expression eXchange


Argentina   3 October 2002 Journalist Catherina Gibilaro of the daily Uno was assaulted by a Mendoz Provincial Police officer, while she was reporting on events at a sports club in the city of Mendoza. The police officer's superiors later refused to reveal her attackers identity.

Botswana    7 July 2002 Monkagedi Gaotlhobogwe, sports reporter at Botswana Gazette, was assulted at the newspaper's offices by prominent Botswana national football team player seabo Gabanakgosi. The football player was unhappy about how the reporter had described him in articles in the newspaper.


 Zimbabwe  2 May 2002 Ignatius Pamire, the interim secretary of Zimbabwe's leading football team, Dynamos, threatened to kill sports writers writing negative stories about his administration. A number of individual journalists were singled out specifically.

 Uruguay  6 January 2001 Fernando Arias, an Argentine photojournalist with the weekly Gente, was assaulted by football player Martin Palermo, after Arias photographed Palermo dancing wiht his girlfriend at a health resort.





Iraq  31 May 2006


TV sports presenter Jaafar Ali from the tv-station Al-Iraqyia was shot by gunmen a he left his home in neighbourhood in south Baghdad.



Source: IFEX



Colombia  18 October 2003

William Soto Cheng was gunned down near a local television station. Cheng exposed corruption including corruption in the world of sport.


Source: Reporters sans frontières


Swaziland  23-24 October 2002

A sports reporter, Zweli Mabila, was stabbed to death a few yards from his home by unknown assailants.


Source: Reporter sans frontières


Colombia  3 May 2001

Yessid Marulanda, a sports reporter for Notipacifico TV News, was shot six times in the head in the city of Cali, Colombia, by unidentified gunmen. The murder was blamed on right-wing paramilitaries.


Source: International Federation of Journalists


Colombia   30 April 2001

Sports reporter Carlos Alberto Trespalacios Yali was killed in Medellín


Source: Committee to Protect Journalists



Liberia     9 April 2007

The Liberian Football Association (LFA) suspended its secretary general, Napoleon Japloe for one month for assaulting Julu Johnson, sports editor of the independent Monrovia-based the "News" newspaper.


Source: IFEX


Brazil   28 April 2005

Brazilian sports commentator, Jorge Kajuru, was sentenced to 18 months in jail on criminal defamation charges because of comments he made on a radio station in 2001, where he alleged that a tv-station had won the rights to broadcast Goias state soccer championship because of its close relationship to the government. The owner and the president of the tv-station filed the charges against Kajuru.


Source: Committee to Protect Journalists


Burma   17 July 2003

Zaw Thet Htwe, editor of sports magazine First Eleven, was arrested and later convicted of high treason and sentenced to death. The death sentence was commuted to first three, then two years in jail and he was released in January 2005. The whole affair is believed to be linked to critical reports on Burmese sport in First Eleven. 


Source: Reporters sans frontières


Democratic Republic of Congo  7 May 2002

A sports journalist with Congo’s national radio and television was arrested and accused of broadcasting propaganda for a candidate for the presidency in the republic when he reported from a football match between teams from Congo and South Africa. In the background it was possible to see football supporters with t-shirts carrying a picture of the candidate who is also a former director of the football club.


Source: Reporters sans frontières

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