PtG Article 09.11.2005

Play the Game urges FIFA to speak up louder

Delegates at Play the Game today agreed to send a letter to FIFA urging it to speak up louder when journalists are threatened, attacked or penalised for trying to cover football related stories.

Dear Markus Siegler,

Thank you for providing us with a fast and constructive reply to our questions. We are pleased to learn that FIFA’s president did intervene in order to secure the pardon of Zaw Thet Htwe.

It would have been useful and more transparent if FIFA at some stage had spoken out publicly on this issue in order to step up the public pressure which human rights organisations were already applying to the government of Myanmar.

We hope that FIFA will consider reacting publicly next time sports journalists are in danger. Within the last 13 months three sports journalists in Greece have been the targets of brutal and near-fatal attacks. And very recently Italian journalists and editors have been threatened when trying to uncover fraud in football.

With regards to our question about how GOAL-funds were used in Myanmar, we are surprised that FIFA puts its trust into a financial report from a local auditing company in a state where military dictators influence football as well as financial affairs and where critical activities could have fatal consequences for all citizens – including auditors.

Allow us to remark that we do not see football lovers in general or sports journalists in particular as members of a big family under FIFA leadership in the way described by FIFA president Sepp Blatter in his letter about Zaw Thet Htwe. If that was the case, surely FIFA would not have flatly refused our invitations to participate in as international a family event as Play the Game.

We consider ourselves part of a global civil society where sports organisations, journalists and academic researchers each have their important roles to play – and where interaction is based on the fundamental values of democracy, transparency and freedom of speech. We hope that in the future, FIFA will join us in defending these values in practice.

Despite our differences we are pleased that FIFA accepted to join in a fast and direct dialogue with Play the Game. We hope that the dialogue can continue and that we will be able to welcome representatives from FIFA in person at future Play the Game conferences.

On behalf of the participants in the 4th world communication conference on sport and society Play the Game

Yours sincerely,

Jens Sejer Andersen


Play the Game