PtG Article 07.11.2005

Safety of sports journalists should be taken more seriously

The Secretary General of the International Federation of Journalists wants media organisations and journalist’s associations to recognise that safety is an issue for sports journalists too.

“It is long overdue,” said Aidan White and praised Play the Game for highlighting the issue through the compilation of a list of attacks on sports journalists.

Aidan White called on journalists’ unions to take up the issue and wanted more professional solidarity in the response to threats to sports journalists.

Such solidarity was not evident when Greek sports editor, Filippos Syrigos, was attacked by unknown men a year ago. The Greek press association and the national sports journalists’ association made public statements against the attack but did nothing else. When a third sports journalist was atttacked in Greece a few months ago, the sports association held a demonstration at the spot where the attack took place but took no other action.

The best support at the moment for sports journalists is the newly established International News Safety Institute, INSI, said Aidan White. INSI provides advice and safety training to all journalists including freelancers who work in hostile environments.

On a different note, the IFJ Secretary General warned that journalists will be the big losers if they do not come to terms with the growing power of sports in media. “The sports business is a powerful force in modern journalism exercising unprecedented influence over the media market, posing new challenges for investigative reporting, and is a key driver of global media developments,” he said.

“Journalists need to better understand the nature of the big beast of sports in journalism,” he said. “It is a major challenge for editorial independence and public interest journalism given its influence on the commercial and marketing strategies of media. If we don’t raise awareness of what is at stake we may all be losers.” “Sports coverage is a battering ram being used by media corporations to get into new markets and which can reinforce media monopolization.  Journalists and their unions need to understand better the problems we face and how we can work together to solve them. This conference will help in that.”